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From the collection of the 

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7 n 

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o JbTelinger 
u v Jjibrary 

San Francisco, California 












Chapter Three. How TO PLAN A LIVING-ROOM 16 


Chapter Four. WHERE SHALL WE EAT? 39 

Chapter Five. LIGHTING 44 


Chapter Six. THE WORK CENTER 71 

Chapter Seven. THE ROOM WITHOUT A NAME 76 

Chapter Eight. HEATING 81 




Chapter Eleven. SLEEPING 1 14 


CLOSETS 119-134 

Chapter Twelve. ORGANIZED STORAGE 135 

Chapter Thirteen. SOUND CONDITIONING 143 


Chapter Fourteen. WINDOWS 167 

Chapter Fifteen. SOLAR HEATING 176 



Chapter Seventeen. How TO GET YOUR HOUSE 

(or Remodel the One You Have) 199 

Chapter Eighteen. PROJECTIONS 205 

Architects and Designers Whose Work Appears in 

This Book 211 

Photographers Whose Pictures Appear in This Book 214 



THIS is NOT the first book about tomorrow's house. Nor will 
it be the last. But it is likely to be the most influential. 

This book challenges not most, but all of the sweet-scented 
nostalgia on the domestic scene. Despite its persuasive man- 
ner, it is going to disturb many readers who keep their milk 
in the latest refrigerator, drive to business in the newest car, 
but persist in thinking that a Cape Cod cottage remains the 
snappiest idea in a home. 

The thesis here advanced is that our way of life is under- 
going great changes and that many of the changes are already 
here. If we accept that statement, and it would seem difficult 
not to, it follows that we should not let sentimental ties with 
the past stand in the way of getting the best house present- 
day technology and design can produce. The notion that the 
contemporary approach to design involves flat roofs and 
corner windows and the exclusion of rambler roses is one 
kind of nonsense this book aims to expose. Perhaps the 
greatest virtue of tomorrow's house is that it frees the plan 
and therefore the family from the arbitrary concepts which 
have gotten in the way of gracious living these many years. 

Whether the talk is about windows or solar heat (of which 
you are hearing a lot now) or the living room, the authors 
have simplified their problems and yours by starting clean. 
They toss out completely the little partitioned cubicles called 
rooms and examine what goes on in a typical household 
in short, how we live and how we want to live. Having es- 
tablished the ground rules, the book then proceeds to explain 
exactly how to get the kind of house which will permit us 
to live the kind of life we wish to live. And this seems the 
right place to quote Mr. Winston Churchill who not long 
ago said: "We shape our buildings, then our buildings shape 
our lives!" 

I hope this book will be read by all those who plan to 
build or buy a postwar house. Obviously, they will be its 
greatest beneficiaries. But also, I have a special interest in 
seeing it read by those who make building their business. 
Every mortgage banker should read it to make certain the 
houses he finances will retain high resale value ten, fifteen, 
twenty years from now. Every house builder should read it 
if he aspires to greater success than his smug competitor. 
Every real estate man should read it because it can add a 
new note of conviction to his plea for home ownership of 
the right house. And every architect should read it if only to 
stiffen his backbone when he tells the client, "You cannot 
walk backwards into the future!" 

Finally, I must confess to a prejudice in favor of the au- 
thors. As one of their co-workers for nearly a decade. I have 
had abundant opportunity to observe how they think. Not 
only do they think regularly, but as a rule they think straight. 
Also, they have a persistent curiosity supported by profes- 
sional training and skill which gives a basis to their opinions. 
Add to these personal qualities the job of conducting a build- 
ing journal they have bored into more house plans than 
any termites on earth and Messrs. Nelson and Wright ap- 
pear well equipped to handle the pages which follow. 

In the first paragraph the opinion was ventured that this 
would be the most influential book on postwar houses. In 
essence what this book attempts to do is convince you that 
instead of "keeping up with the Joneses," it is more satis- 
fying and profitable to be the "Joneses" under your own 
roof. If that prospect tempts you, here is the key. 


FEW BOOKS, and certainly no books of this type, appear 
without the silent but indispensable collaboration of many 
people. To these we gratefully acknowledge our consider- 
able debt. 

The fact that most of the words are spelled correctly is 
due to Eleanor Bittermann, Joanna Hadala and Rosamond 
Temple, who typed and retyped what seems in retrospect to 
have been an endlessly revised series of manuscripts. 

The task of assembling photographs was carried through 
by Miss Henry Martin, who may also be held responsible 
for any errors in the lists of architects and photographers. 
That the pictures have been organized into a coherent group 
of illustrations is due to Paul Grotz, who designed the pic- 
ture sections. It probably would have been impossible to 
have included even a fraction of the photographs if not for 
the pioneering work of The Architectural Forum in seeking 
out and publishing the best modern houses in America. The 
authors are grateful to both The Forum and Life for permis- 
sion to show houses and projects previously published in 
these magazines. 

To the rapidly expanding group of modern U.S. architects 
should go the bulk of the credit, since without their work 
there might have been theories to expound but no houses to 
demonstrate their validity. 

The institution of matrimony exerted a very potent influ- 
ence on the thinking of both authors in addition to the spe- 
cific contributions made by Frances Nelson and Dorothy 
Wright, who carried through most of the research, deflated 
exaggerated ideas, corrected certain masculine misconcep- 
tions about the business of running a house, and edited the 

We gratefully acknowledge the cooperation of the photog- 
raphers whose work appears in this volume. Their names 
are listed on page 214, together with the numbers of their 




THIS BOOK HAS a point of view which may seem 
strange to you. What it is will be made pretty clear 
in the first few pages of this introduction. If, after 
reading that far, the viewpoint seems not only 
strange, but unpalatable as well, put this book 
aside and forget it, for what we have to say will not 
be for you. 

We once knew a young couple who built a house. 

They were an attractive, well educated, and pros- 
perous pair. When their house which they and 
their neighbors called "Colonial" was completed, 
it was very impressive for its fine finish and gen- 
erally beautiful workmanship. The delicate mold- 
ings characteristic of the style had been very care- 
fully cut, and there were no rough edges anywhere. 
The builder who had put up this house had done a 
splendid job. But do you know what the owner and 
his wife did before the painters moved in? They 
went through all of the main rooms, each swinging 
a big bunch of heavy keys, banging away at the 
moldings which had been cut so carefully at the 
mill from the details prepared so carefully by the 

The moldings were nicked and scarred in this 
manner because it was felt that the house looked 
too new and therefore lacked the authenticity one 
finds in Salem or Litchfield or the other early New 
England towns. 

If this little performance does not strike you as 

being pretty close to the lunatic fringe of human 
behavior, again we say : don't read this book. 

Why do ostensibly normal young people, living 
in the twentieth century, do what this couple did 
to their new house? 

Why do people buy new, straight beams for a 
study or living-room, and then hire a man with an 
adz to chip away at the surfaces until the beam 
looks as if it had been cut by a beaver instead of a 
modern sawmill? 

Why do people spend money for shutters they 
never intend to use? 

Why do most windows have eight to a dozen 
small panes, when single large sheets of glass are 
both cheaper and better? (Big, simple glass areas 
are much easier to clean, far easier to look out of.) 

Why do people build houses that were designed 
originally to conform to the techniques and living 
requirements of people who were dead two hun- 
dred years ago? (The popular "Colonial" house is 
such a design.) 

If we could discover the answers to these ques- 
tions and others like them, we should be well on 
the way to discovering what a house today really is. 
You might say at this juncture, "But I do know 
what a house really is. It is a shelter for a family, so 
planned, constructed, and equipped that it gives the 
best possible accommodations for the money." 

This is a very pretty definition. It might apply to 



tomorrow's house. Unfortunately, it has practi- 
cally nothing to do with today's. 

There are three ways of looking at a house. A 
house is a technical fact this is what the definition 
above is concerned with. But a house is also a social 
fact. And-something rarely thought of-it is a psych- 
ological fact of considerable importance. Only if 
we look at our homes in all three ways can we 
arrive at an answer to the question we started with. 


What is meant by the house as a technical fact? 
We use this phrase because a house, like any other 
product, is the result of design and production 
processes. Looked at in this way, home is no differ- 
ent from a pencil sharpener or a tractor. It shares 
with them the characteristic of being an item of 
consumer use. But there is one big difference, one, 
perhaps, which never occurred to you: our houses 
now represent the only important consumer pro- 
duct left that is still put together slowly, clumsily, 
and expensively, by hand. True, many of its parts 
are mass-produced in factories thermostats, light- 
ing and plumbing fixtures, refrigerators and hard- 
ware are not made on the job. By far the greater 
part, however, including the entire structural shell 
and foundations, is a pretty old-fashioned hand as- 
sembly. This is why homes cost so much. It isn't 
the only reason. But it is a big one. 

Many people in the building business have been 
aware of this situation for years, and innumerable 
attempts have been made to design dwellings suit- 
able for factory production. Most of these attempts 
come under the heading of "prefabrication," a 
word that has been very much in the limelight. To 
date, nobody has made a factory-built house that 
is more satisfactory than the conventional article 
and sells for less money. The time is not too far off, 
however, when such houses will be available. Ulti- 
mately they will represent the majority of new 
American dwellings. 

Does this prospect botheryou? If it does, let's not 
worry about it now. Prefabricated houses are not 
available, anyway. Our concern is with the house 
as it is built now and how to improve it. 

When considering the house as a technical fact, 
it is well to remember that, while production meth- 
ods are important, design methods at the present 
stage of building are even more important. Wheth- 
er a home is hand- or machine-built, it is no good 
unless it is properly designed. "Design," by the way, 
means the basic scheme of the house, not just 
the trimmings around the front door and fireplace. 

Today's house is a peculiarly lifeless affair. The 
picture one sees in residential neighborhoods the 
country over is one of drab uniformity: pathetic lit- 
tle white boxes with dressed-up street fronts, each 
striving for individuality through meaningless 
changes in detail or color. The reason today's 
house is so uninteresting is simply that it fails to 
echo life as we live it. 

Expressed in another way, it is hideously ineffi- 
cient. Less honest thought goes into the design of 
the average middle-class house than into the fender 
of a cheap automobile. Windows are placed with 
no regard for light or view. Rooms are arranged 
with little or no concern for their use and furnish- 
ings. Lighting, in a scientific sense, doesn't exist. 
Plans are so bad that nobody in the family can en- 
joy privacy outside of the bedroom or bath. Clos- 
ets are usually the wrong size or shape, their doors 
make it hard to get full use out of them, and there 
are never enough. Except in the most up-to-date 
kitchens, few ideas have been developed for mak- 
ing housekeeping easier. Home may be the family's 
castle, but people got tired of living in castles sev- 
eral centuries ago. 


If the house were just a collection of sticks and 
stones, working out an efficient design wouldn't be 
much of a job. Compared to a four-motored bomb- 


er or an aircraft carrier, a dwelling is a pretty sim- 
ple affair. As it happens, however, home is a great 
deal more than a technical pattern: it is a member 
of society as well. And social patterns have been 
changing at a very rapid rate. 

When families lived in small villages, when there 
were many children in each family, when people 
created their own entertainment in their own 
homes, lots of rooms were the rule. Efficiency, in 
our present-day sense, wasn't too important, be- 
cause the tempo of life was slower and the children 
helped with the chores as they grew older. Also, 
there wasn't much the average housewife could do 
besides raising children and taking care of the 
home. Today this situation exists only in the most 
backward and isolated rural areas. Much entertain- 
ment has moved out of the home to the movies, to 
hotels, churches, night clubs, community houses, 
and other institutions which could hardly be said to 
have existed, in this sense, a generation ago. When 
the children grow up, they try to get jobs, they don't 
stick around to help with the dusting. Chances are 
that mother works too. It is difficult indeed to see 
how the conventional, old-style house can meet 
these new situations. In some places it has been de- 
cided that no kind of dwelling can meet all of them. 
This last statement probably needs amplification. 

In Stockholm there are thousands of apart- 
ment dwellings constructed by co-operative build- 
ing societies for their members. Many of the build- 
ings, which run to about eight stories high, have 
penthouses and large roof gardens. These pent- 
houses and gardens are not for wealthy tenants: 
they are set aside for the children of all the ten- 
ants. They contain nurseries which are beauti- 
fully equipped and capably staffed. There are kit- 
chens, examining rooms, sunny playrooms, dormi- 
tories, and small isolation wards. The nurseries are 
used in a great variety of ways. If both parents 
work, the child is taken up in the morning to spend 
the day in the nursery, and collected again in the 

evening. Should the mother stay at home, the child 
may only spend enough time in the nursery to al- 
low the mother to get her cleaning and marketing 
done. If the parents feel they need a week-end 
alone together, there are dormitories where the 
children can sleep and kitchens for feeding them. 
If someone in the family is ill, the children can be 
moved to the nursery for protection. The net result 
of this system, which has been extraordinarily suc- 
cessful in Sweden, is that families in the $1,500 to 
$3,000 income group have more freedom in their 
daily lives than many people here whose incomes 
may be five times as great. 

There are two conclusions which may be drawn 
from this example. One is that there are certain 
functions which no home, however modern and ef- 
ficient, can provide. Such problems can only be 
solved by social action, by groups that pool their 
requirements and their resources. The second con- 
clusion, which follows inevitably, is that whenever 
certain home functions are taken over by agencies 
outside the home, the plan of the dwelling itself can 
be modified. 

It is not within the province of this book to argue 
for or against nurseries. The example is cited only 
to illustrate the contention that many traditional 
home activities are moving out into the neighbor- 
hood or the community. Under the circumstances, 
therefore, the influence of this trend, as well as 
others say factory work for women must be con- 
sidered in its relation to the individual dwelling. 

Not all social trends are on this grand scale. The 
phenomenal growth of hobbies is another one. 
Hobbies are a peculiarly modern activity. They are 
partly the result of increased leisure, partly an at- 
tempt to compensate for the spiritual poverty of life 
in an overspecialized world. Wherever a hobby re- 
quires space say photography or woodworking 
the plan of the house must be modified. There are 
many similar examples of social pressures which 
tend to change the form of the house. 


Hardest to evaluate of all three aspects of today's 
house is what we have termed the psychological. 
When a man buys a car it would scarcely be accu- 
rate to say that his emotions are deeply involved in 
the transaction. For one thing, he has no intention 
of keeping the car for more than three to five years. 
For another, it is primarily a means of transporta- 
tion. True, people do become fond of their cars and 
their idiosyncrasies, and they get a great deal of 
pleasure from the freedom of movement a car of- 
fers, but there is rarely much anguish when the ja- 
lopy is traded in for a shiny new model. Home is 
quite a different matter. 

Did you ever hear of a "Dream Car"? We 
haven't. But there is an American "Dream 
House," and all of us have been conditioned to 
want it. This dream house has become so stand- 
ardized that we can even describe it. 

Home, in the American dream, is a quaint little 
white cottage, shyly nestled in a grove of old elms 
or maples, bathed in the perfume of lilacs, and 
equipped with at least one vine-covered wall. Its 
steep gabled roof, covered with rough, charmingly 
weathered shingles, shows a slight sag in the ridge. 
The eaves come down so low that one can almost 
touch them. Tiny dormers on one side poke them- 
selves through the old roof and let in light through 
tiny-paned windows to the upstairs bedrooms. In 
front of the house there is invariably a picket fence, 
with day Mies poking their heads between the 
white palings. Let into the fence, at the end of a 
flagstone walk bordered with alyssum and verbena, 
is a swinging gate, where husband and wife em- 
brace tenderly as he dashes for the 8:11 and the 
workaday world. Finishing touches include shut- 
ters in soft blue or green, with half moons or flow- 
er pots cut out of them with a jig saw. In the hall 
there is a replica of an oil lamp, wired for electricity. 
Somewhere there is a paneled wall, a beamed ceil- 
ing, a hooked rug, a four-poster bed, and a huge 

fireplace of worn old brick with an antique settle or 
shoemaker's bench in front of it. 

"Well," you may say, "what's wrong with that 
picture? It looks pretty good to me." 

There is nothing wrong with the picture except 
that it remains what it always was, a dream. No 
house embodying all of these features ever existed 
at any one time or place. When people attempt to 
realize it today, what they actually get is either a 
cheap imitation or an outrageously expensive fake. 
And in the end the whole thing is given away by the 
late model Buick at the front door (which requires 
a very untraditional driveway and garage), or by 
the kitchen ventilating fan, or a television aerial, 
not to mention the tiled bath and streamlined kit- 
chen. People refuse to live in the seventeenth cen- 
tury even though they sometimes like to pretend 
that is what they are doing. 

To approach the biggest investment in a family's 
life in such peculiarly sentimental terms seems irra- 
tional, to say the least. At such a time we should be 
thinking very hard about getting the very best liv- 
ing features for the money; instead, we dream of a 
kind of house that was developed before we fin- 
ished fighting the Indians. 

There is something else about this dream house 
which is odd. The picture is not "traditional"- 
that is, it does not go back without interruption to 
pioneer days. After the Civil War, during the Vic- 
torian period, people didn't think in these terms at 
all. The Victorian house, for example, was a sur- 
prisingly uninhibited design and very functional in 
a good many ways. It was quite sensibly related to 
the techniques and living habits of the period. 
Queer as their tastes may have been, the people of 
this time felt no compulsion, apparently, to squeeze 
themselves into counterfeit Cape Cod cottages. The 
Colonial dream with which we have all been ob- 
sessed goes back only to the time of World War I. 

The end of World War I opened one of the most 

chaotic periods in human history. One year and 
four days before the armistice was signed, the Rus- 
sians under Lenin inaugurated a social and eco- 
nomic system, the implications of which have never 
ceased to frighten people whose well-being de- 
pends on the ownership of productive property. 
After the German people had swapped the Kaiser 
for the Weimar Republic, they headed into a period 
of disastrous inflation. Trying to establish a gov- 
ernment on the Bolshevik model, the North Italian 
workers precipitated the crisis that brought in Mus- 
solini and Fascism. The wildest boom ever known 
came to a sudden end in 1929, and tens of millions 
of people the world over suddenly found them- 
selves helpless and jobless. Full-scale wars have 
been raging in Asia, Africa, and Europe since 193 1 . 
These events, tossed into the lap of a generation 
born in the smug, quiet years which began the cen- 
tury, were profoundly distressing, because the 
forces generating the events were hard to under- 
stand and seemingly impossible to control. 

World War I had another consequence. It opened 
the eyes of industrialists to the meaning of full- 
scale mass production. Factories sprang up by the 
thousands, and markets were flooded with count- 
less items that were lower in price and higher in 
quality than any consumer goods ever produced 
before. Thus, before the eyes of a new generation, 
another contradiction presented itself: production 
potential without limit on the one hand: unem- 
ployment without limit on the other. Alone in a 
world that made little sense and offered less secur- 
ity, the average citizen searched desperately for 
ways out of the dilemmas into which he was con- 
tinually being placed. Never in his whole history 
had he been so free. He was "free" to work if he 
could find work. He was "free" to buy anything 
if he had money. He was "free" to move anywhere 
he wanted if there was a job at the other end. He 
had other kinds of freedom, too. Good kinds. But 
for the most part he was like a chip tossed around 


in a strong current, and of this kind of freedom he 
was terrified. 

When people become afraid of freedom, they try 
to give it up. They regiment themselves, because 
regimentation provides a comforting sense of se- 
curity, of belonging to something. The comfort 
doesn't last, but people try it anyway. 

We know how regimentation worked in Ger- 
many and Italy. In our own country it is less blat- 
ant, because what we are destroying is cultural, not 
political, freedom. Every week tens of millions of 
people rush to the movies, where the usual film 
preaches that there is no need to worry there is 
always a happy ending. Let the czars of fashion an- 
nounce that skirts are going to be an inch higher or 
lower, and female America trots off docilely to 
obey. Fear is the keynote of smart advertising: we 
buy because we are afraid of B.O. or halitosis or 
losing a girl never because we like the stuff. Over 
a million people belong to "clubs" which tell them 
what books to buy. Then they buy digests so that 
they won't have to read the books. Expose some- 
one to a strange new painting or unfamiliar music, 
and ask for a reaction. Usually what you get is an 
evasion. Modern man, put into a spot where he 
can't function on canned opinion, tends to get lost. 
He has no confidence in his taste or judgment. He 
is regimented. 

And so with our houses. For a while the rage was 
"Mediterranean." Later it was "English" and 
"French Provincial." Most recently it has been 
"Colonial." The names of the styles don't matter, 
because most of the houses have been very poor 
imitations, anyway. But what did that matter? All 
that really mattered was not getting out of step with 
the crowd. 

The "Dream House" exists because to the person 
who has lost his capacity for independent thinking 
and feeling it represents authority, expert opinion, 
tradition, and cultural solidarity with his fellows. 
Also, it subtly identifies its owner with people who 


weren't afraid to think and feel for themselves, with 
a time when families moved boldly into the un- 
charted wilderness because they knew what they 
were after. Armed with a dream house, the bewil- 
dered citizen thinks he has one thing at least which 
will stay put in a changing world, a link to the past 
which suggests, but does not really provide, secur- 
ity. This house has the magic property of making 
one just like everyone else. It is not "extreme" or 
"freakish." Its features have been made known to 
every man and woman in the land through the wo- 
men's magazines, the home magazines, movies, and 
advertisements. It is, therefore, respectable. For 
this respectability the buyer pays a high price, be- 
cause he sacrifices all kinds of living amenities in 
the process. 


Now it is clear why our young friends banged up 
then- moldings. The old-fashioned design was not 
enough the house had to show the very scars of 
long usage. \Ye all want safety, permanence, con- 
tinuity. But what a strange way to try to get them! 
Now it is also clear why the shutters, the fake 
beams, and all the other stage scenery are put in. 
We can see, too, why modern houses were greeted 
at the outset with such violent outbursts of disap- 
proval. "Modern" was more than a way of design- 
ing houses it was one more symbol of incompre- 
hensible change. And every change, these days, 
seems to be a threat to personal and social stability. 
What is a house? We now have an answer. It is a 
perfect mirror of a society most of whose members 
are desperately afraid of acting like independent in- 
dividuals. Its weaknesses are social, not technical. 
The technical means for producing good houses 
have long been at hand. Today's house is the cru- 
dest kind of solution to the problem of gracious, 
civilized living; it is decades behind the industrial 
possibilities of our time. Tomorrow's house the 

antithesis of everything we have said about today's 
could be built right now by anyone who has the 
good sense and courage to tackle it. 


If you have already glanced at the pictures in this 
book, you will have noticed that there are no ex- 
amples of the Colonial Dream House. Interiors, ex- 
teriors, furnishings, and equipment are all modern. 
In other words, they were built by people who 
haven't been afraid to change. To date, such peo- 
ple have put up enough modern houses to fill sev- 
eral books this size. In the next five years or so, 
dozens of times as many are going to be built. The 
Colonial dream is approaching its end. How do we 
know? In two ways. We have been watching the 
advertisements, the movies, and the magazines, and 
the swing to modern has definitely begun. All of 
our tremendous apparatus for influencing public 
opinion is tuning up for a new propaganda barrage 
in favor of these new houses. A new fashion in 
homes will be created, and the public will follow. 
There is another reason for this prediction, a far 
more important one. People have been learning 
that the houses they have been sold are not good 
enough. Where they have seen good modern 
houses, they have been impressed. They know liv- 
ing in a house can be better than it has been, and 
they are beginning to make their demands felt. 

At this point one thing has to be made very clear, 
for it is the basis on which the entire book has been 
written. We are in favor of modern houses, not be- 
cause they are modern, but because they are tradi- 
tional. This undoubtedly sounds strange enough to 
require an explanation. Here it is : 

Whenever people run across buildings which his- 
tory books say are great architecture, we find that 
these buildings have certain characteristics in com- 
mon. Invariably they were unself-conscious and 
honest solutions to some particular set of building 
problems. Their architects were men who worked 


in a tradition which was full of meaning for the 
people of the time. They didn't play games and pre- 
tend they were living in some entirely different 
period. Suppose the men who built the cathedral 
at Chartres had tried to pretend it was a Greek 
temple? Would people come from all over the 
world to see it? We suspect they wouldn't. Why is 
an old Colonial village so charming and the current 
"Colonial" subdivision so boring? Could it be be- 
cause one is honest and the other a fake? Boulder 
Dam aroused more genuine esthetic emotion than 
all the churches in America put together. And yet 
church buildings are designed specifically to arouse 
emotion and Boulder Dam was built only to hold 
back a lot of water. 

Wherever we look whether at the present or 
the remote past the answer is the same. The great 
tradition in architecture is honest building. It is as 
true right now as it was in the days of the Pyramids. 

We have included only modern houses in this 
book because in our time they are the only way to 
carry on the great tradition. There is no possible 
chance to turn the clock back. In designing houses 
today we have to be ourselves twentieth century 
people with our own problems and our own tech- 
nical facilities. There is no other way to get a good 
house. No other way at all. 

If in the next few years people start building this 
new kind of house because they know what they 
need and want and why, they will probably do well. 
But if they turn to "modern" because they have 
been persuaded it is the thing to do the way to be 
like everybody else then inevitably the results will 
be as bad as what went before. The unsightly rash 
of earlier "styles" which has deformed our cities 
will be succeeded by another, no better, of "mod- 
ernistic" houses. If we continue to function as we 
have in the last twenty or thirty years, it is a safe 
guess that the "modernistic" will greatly outnum- 
ber the honestly designed houses. Our tastes have 
been so degraded by builders and incompetent 

architects and manufacturers, and by our own in- 
ability to think for ourselves, that any other out- 
come would be a minor miracle. 

This book is an argument for the traditional ap- 
proach to house design, for an expression in homes 
of modern life as we live it. It is also a plea for indi- 
viduality against regimentation. Individuality in 
houses, as in people, is a fundamental expression of 
something real. It has nothing to do with fashion. 
Surface differences (clapboards on your house 
shingles on mine) are of no importance. A man can 
dress like all other men and still be very much of an 
individual. So with houses. Where families are 
alike, their houses will be alike and they should 
be. Where they differ, the houses will show it and 
this, too, is as it should be. Individuality is possible 
only in a modern house because no other approach 
to building expresses life as it is today. And without 
expression there can be no individuality. The proc- 
ess of achieving individuality is not easy. Having 
designed many houses, we have learned that. But 
it is worth working for. 


Out in the Southwest there is an airplane factory 
which is almost a mile long and a city block wide. 
Its exterior covering is sheet steel; inside, its walls 
and ceilings are padded with acres of fluffy, white, 
glass wool. This plant manufactures its own cli- 
mate, which is excellent; it provides wonderful 
artificial light to work by, for there are no win- 
dows; the padded walls keep noises down to a 
level which is not unduly disturbing. Viewed from 
inside or out, this plant looks like nothing ever 
seen on this earth before. Its design has no "style." 
Anyone who looks at it, whether layman or 
expert, is lost in admiration of its great size and 
beautifully efficient appearance. The designers, 
however, didn't worry about the factory's looks; 
they just built it with an honest concern for what 


it was supposed to do. This was the traditional 
approach applied to factory building. This is how 
we have to design our houses. 

"What!" someone says. "Do you mean steel 
houses without windows, padded inside with glass 
wool?" That is exactly what we do not mean. The 
bomber plant is exciting architecture because it 
looks like a factory. How exciting do you suppose 
a house would be if it were faked to look like a fac- 
tory? And why should houses be windowless? As 
long as people want to enjoy views and have the 
sun pour in, houses are going to have windows. 
And that, we are inclined to believe, is going to be 
for a long, long time. 

A house designed on the basis of the traditional 
approach will look exactly like a house, in fact it 
will look so much like a house that many people 
will be surprised when they see it. True, it will lack 
many of the earmarks of the conventional dwell- 
ing, but what of it? Automobiles don't have whip 
holders any more either. 


Today's house is an unattractive, inefficient build- 
ing. Anyone can understand this by looking around 
and asking why people designed their houses the 
way they did. We believe that people want better 
homes than they have today, and we believe, too, 
that many of them are learning how to get them. 
That is why we named this book Tomorrow's 
House. But a title like this can be misleading. 

For years the crystal-gazers have been telling us 
what tomorrow's house will be like. We have no 
crystal ball. We are not interested in houses of non- 
existent materials, houses that can be flown from 
here to there, houses that substitute fancy electronic 
gadgetry for sensible planning. We are interested in 
houses that people can build and live in now not 
in the year 2000. 

A while back we said that most people would 

some day be living in factory-produced houses. 
That is true. It has to be true, because every other 
consumer product in this country has always 
moved from handicraft production to industrial 
production, and there is no technical reason why 
houses should be the exception. There are social 
and psychological reasons against it, as we have 
seen, chiefly the fear of losing the illusion of se- 
curity and respectability attached to the older 
models. But this attitude is already changing. 
Many people fear that machine production will re- 
move from the house some quality we should try to 
keep. Maybe. Maybe there were values in the cus- 
tom-made suit which do not exist in the ready- 
made article, but it would be hard to persuade the 
average man to go back to the custom tailor. There 
is no moral or esthetic reason why the factory-built 
house should be inferior to the hand-made house. 
A tool is a tool, and whether it is worked out of 
doors by hand or in a large plant by electric power 
does not change its function. It is as unreasonable 
to fear the prospect of the factory-built house as 
it is to resent the replacement of the stone knife 
by the cross-cut saw. 

We are not seriously concerned in this book with 
such factory-made houses because at this time their 
manufacture is still in an extremely primitive state, 
and we all want our better homes right now. 

Having spent a number of years watching the 
development of modern houses in this country and 
abroad, and having had the opportunity to ex- 
change ideas with most of America's outstanding 
modern architects, we have built up the thesis that 
provides the underlying framework of this book. 
It is a simple idea, but it has interesting possibili- 
ties : if one were to take the best planning ideas, the 
best structural schemes, and the best equipment 
that have gone into the best modern houses, and 
combine them appropriately in a single house, the 
result would look like something out of the day 
after tomorrow. In other words, we have at hand 


right now the means to create homes of designs so 
advanced that they would be able to meet every re- 
quirement of contemporary living. 

Mind you, we don't expect anyone to go through 
this process of tossing all the best things into a hat 
and pulling out the perfect house. Things don't 
happen that way. Tomorrow's house as we see 
it is not a potpourri but an integrated, highly indi- 
vidual expression of how a twentieth-century fam- 
ily lives. And to get that you need a family that 
knows what it needs and has the courage of its con- 
victions. You also need an architect worth his salt. 
Both are to be found, but there is no oversupply of 


The statement of our thesis should help to explain 
the organization of the material in the book. You 
will find no stock plans here, no catalogues of 
"styles," no orations on good taste. You will run 
across many detailed solutions for general prob- 
lems, but much more about how to solve your own. 
The photographs and drawings were not put in to 
be copied, although if you find a good idea suitable 
for your own requirements, by all means take it. 
They will be far more useful, however, if they are 
studied for what they achieve, and analyzed to find 
how they got that way. 

Anyone who has followed articles on houses in 
the popular magazines and has watched recent ad- 
vertisements is conscious of the tremendous in- 
terest in new materials and gadgets, things which 
promise to make tomorrow's house a revolutionary 
affair in many ways. If this is what you expect of 
this book detailed specifications of things to 
come you will be sadly disappointed. There is 
very little here about miraculous things to come, 
but a great deal about miraculous things that have 
been with us for some time. The relative absence of 
glamorous descriptions of new wonder plastics, 
light metals yet to be named, and electronic equip- 

ment that will change the baby's diapers, is not due 
to a lack of interest on our part. But in combing 
through the technical papers, in tracking down 
promising announcements, and by utilizing every 
possible contact with specialists in the building in- 
dustry, we were forced to the conclusion that the 
immediate future holds little in the way of epoch- 
making developments that will have any significant 
influence on home design. This does not mean that 
important changes are not in the offing in the 
chapter called "Projections" there are indications 
of many. These, however, will not vitally affect to- 
morrow's house; they are for the day after to- 
morrow at the earliest. And interesting as they are 
as trends today, it will be years before they have 
any practical meaning for the home builder. 

Wherever possible, the "functional" approach 
has been used, not because this is the be-all and 
end-all of house design, but because it is a good 
way to begin. You will not find a chapter on bed- 
rooms, for example, but a great deal about sleep- 
ing. If people are going to sleep, it doesn't much 
matter whether they do it on the couch in the living 
room or on a bed in the bedroom; in both places 
the requirements are exactly the same. It may come 
as a surprise that certain rooms have been so dealt 
with that they have turned into completely different 
kinds of rooms. In place of the conventional 
kitchen, for instance, we give you the "work cen- 
ter," which is not merely a new label but a new kind 
of interior. Perhaps you won't like it. If so, that is 
all right with us. It is definitely not the purpose of 
this book to dictate a new gospel of house planning. 
It has been enough of a job to explore some of the 
myriad possibilities offered by contemporary living 
habits and industrial techniques and to show some 
of the ways they can be used to make houses better, 
more attractive places to live. If you are interested 
in this objective (and who is not?), we think you 
will find the book provocative and, we hope, useful 
and convincing. 



THIS is NOT a true story, but it might just as well be. 

Once upon a time there was a Man who decided 
that he would build a house for his family and him- 
self. Before calling in the architect he had selected, 
he himself started to work out a plan for the house, 
because, he reasoned, he knew more about his fam- 
ily and how it functioned and what it liked and 
what it didn't like and what it could afford and 
what their friends didn't like, than anybody else. 

He began with the living-room, because, after all, 
he only slept in the bedroom and never went into 
the kitchen. 

His plan for the living-room was really pretty 
wonderful. There had been very few living-rooms, 
probably, with as many masculine comforts in- 
cluded. There was, for instance, a place for his fa- 
vorite leather chair, which was well worn and com- 
fortable. And there was a good floor lamp with a 
bright bulb arranged so that one could read with- 
out shifting around in the chair, moving the lamp, 
and otherwise wasting a great deal of time and 

Within arm's reach on one side was the radio. 
On the other there was a smoking stand with room 
for magazines, a couple of books, a jar of tobacco, 
and four or five pipes. 

One side of the room was to be lined with 

books, because the Man liked to read. And there 
was even a cabinet which when opened up would 
turn into the most ingenious bar imaginable. 

When the plan was done, the Man showed it to 
his wife. "This" he said, "is the plan of the living- 
room in our new house. Isn't it wonderful? Look." 

"No," said his wife, "it isn't wonderful at all. In 
fact, I'd hardly call it a living-room. It looks more 
like the extra bedroom upstairs that you wanted so 
that you could have a quiet place." 

"Why, what do you mean?" sputtered the Man. 
"Now, look" 

"A living-room," interrupted his wife icily, "is 
called a living-room because other people in the 


family will have to live in it besides you. When my 
friends come in for bridge, what good will that 
ratty old leather chair of yours do them? And I'm 
not sure I will even allow that in our new house, 
anyway. Don't forget that I am chairman of two 
committees, one of which has sixteen members, and 
when they come to the house, as they will have to 
do at least once a month, I must have room for 
them. And if we have tea we are going to need 
tables. Besides, what will people think if instead of 
a decent living-room we have this smoke-filled den 
you seem bent on acquiring!" 

"Well, maybe you have a point there," said the 
husband, who always ended up by agreeing his wife 
had a point there. "What had we better do? I've 
wanted a decent place to read, you know, for quite 
a long time, and this seemed like a good chance to 
get it. You're not going to spoil my corner, are 

"Certainly not," said the wife, who was much 
more cheerful now that matters were obviously un- 
der control and moving in the right direction. "Of 
course not. After a long, hard day at the office you 
need a nice place where you can read in comfort. 
But about the living-room. I saw the most attrac- 
tive picture in House and Home last month. It had 
a charming fireplace with some really stunning 

eighteenth century French andirons. And right in 
front of the fireplace there was an antique coffee 
table with a sofa on each side. Then behind one 
sofa* there was a high table with a pair of very 
handsome Chinese lamps on it." 

At this point their daughter, who had walked in 
on the discussion a few minutes earlier and had evi- 
denced mounting indignation, burst in. 

"I never heard anything so ridiculous in all my 
life! Isn't there going to be any place in this house 
where your children can carry on a normal social 
life? Why, anybody would think you didn't have 
any children or didn't care about them. Why don't 
you build us a separate house?" 

The Man and his wife, having weathered these 
outbursts for a good part of the last sixteen years, 
regarded their daughter with their usual mixture of 
affection and perplexity, tacitly dropping their own 
argument to join forces against the forthcoming 

"A living-room," continued their daughter in- 
dignantly, "is a place where the family should live, 
isn't it? Why do you have to dress it up like a third- 
rate interior decorator's dream of life in a pent- 
house? Do you have to clutter up the room with 
that heavy table and those two Chinese lamps? I 
know what you're talking about. We saw it in 





Roan's window when we were downtown day be- 
fore yesterday. Now, I ask you ! How do we ever 
move that out of the way if we're having a party 
and someone wants to dance? And with those* two 
chi-chi sofas so close to the fireplace, how would 
anybody ever get in there to make popcorn or toast 
marshmallows? What's more, if a girl wanted to 
entertain somebody just one person, I mean she 
would have about as much privacy as a a ." 

"Goldfish," suggested her father helpfully. 

In the brief silence that followed, many thoughts 
were whirling around in the minds of the living- 
room planners. 

"Guess I lose my reading corner," thought the 

"I don't suppose I'll ever have a really nice liv- 
ing-room," thought his wife, "and I've wanted one 
for so long." 

"Why don't they ever do things right," fretted 
the daughter. "Does a girl have to wait until she's 
married to get a nice place to live?" 

Habit was strong, however. But with the first 
move towards compromise, in walked son John, 
age fourteen, whose passion for swing bands 
had turned the dinner hour into a silent, recurring 
battle over whether he or his father would get to 
the radio first when dessert was cleared away. And 

the three suddenly realized that this was the most 
difficult factor of all John and his drums and his 
three music-loving companions who weekly made 
the neighborhood air quiver with their uneasy ef- 
forts to achieve something new in contemporary 

Late that night the discussion continued in the 
privacy of the master bedroom. 

" And you see, my dear," continued the wife, 
decisively snapping her hair net into place, "there 
also has to be at least one decent place where I can 
work. There's all the mending, which means some 
kind of cabinet in the living-room, because it's silly 
to run up and down with a sewing basket, and a 
good strong light. And we need a desk, because we 
have to keep bills and household accounts and 
write letters somewhere." 

Overwhelmed by the seemingly endless list of re- 
quirements, the Man grunted and fell asleep. So, 
eventually, did his wife. And her consciousness of 
the requirements and desires of the rest of her fam- 
ily must have penetrated her subconscious, for she 
drifted presently into a dream of Bessie, an irate 
Bessie, the maid they had had the longest time and 
a family member they were most anxious to keep. 

"I quit!" Bessie was saying over and over again 
in the dream. "I can't clean that living-room! You 



should have one servant just to work there and no- 
where else. I can't get the vacuum cleaner under 
those spindle-legged sofas, so I have to move them. 
But you can't move them, because there are tables 
on both sides. So I move the tables. But you can't 
move the tables, because they're too heavy. Then 
there's that corner of yours. No matter what I do 
to that old leather chair, it never looks right. And 
there are the cigar ashes on that beautiful new rug. 
Master John won't let me move his drums, and I 
can't clean around them or under them. And Miss 
Peggy's friends got toasted marshmallow all over 
one of the upholstered chairs last night. I can 
hardly move around, because you've got three floor 
lamps now. 

"I quit!" screamed Bessie, vanishing into a black 
void where the wife could not even find a fragment 
of pride in working out a living-room that would 
make everybody in the family happy. 

Breakfast the following day was better. Planning 
was in the air. Each member of the family sensed in 
his or her own way the challenge and excitement of 
arranging things so that this room would do every- 
thing that they demanded of it. They were all gen- 
uinely fond of one another, and the bickering was 
almost always amiable. 

"Let's make a list," said the mother. 

A list was made forthwith. Or, rather, four lists 
were made. 

Putting them together was the most fascinating 
game of give-and-take the family had ever played. 
But as the room emerged from this building-up of 
requirements, it took on a rather curious and dis- 
turbing quality, for it was not like any room any of 
them could recall having seen before. 

There were, for example, thirteen different 
sources of light. Some were high and some were 
low, some were dim and some were bright, some 
were direct and some were indirect. They had never 
seen a room with thirteen lights in it before, but the 
idea seemed to make sense. And, anyway, they had 
gotten rid of the three floor lamps, because nobody 
liked floor lamps. There was even to be a funny 
black spotlight, screwed on the wood wall in the 
alcove, just like the ones in the show windows 
down at Lloyd's. But they had mulled over the 
question of lights, and this they knew was what 
they needed. 

There was acoustical tile on one wall just as 
there was in Dad's office to counteract some of 
the effects of the swing band. And there was one 
wall that seemed to be mostly glass, which could be 
made to slide so that in summer the porch would 
become part of the living-room, and everybody 

rvodio /Uttprujvt 



TY\8, Jiocott 

would have more space. 

At this point they went to their Architect, who 
was a very distinguished old gentleman. He had 
built the local courthouse, a very fine Italian Re- 
naissance building. The main lobby had a wonder- 
ful corridor with a ceiling you would have sworn 
was made out of wood beams. Everybody in town 
knew they were concrete, of course, but nobody 
had ever seen so good an imitation. He had done 
houses in the best sections of town stately Geor- 
gian mansions, the most intimate kind of French 
farmhouses, and even a Mediterranean villa, which 
looked too tropical for words, except, of course, in 
the worst part of February. 

The Architect looked at the list and heard all 
about the thirteen lights and the sliding wall and 
the acoustical tile and everything else that was 
needed for the living-room. And the slight wrinkle 
in his distinguished forehead broadened into a po- 
lite frown that gradually became fixed. 

"It's impossible," he said finally, delicately tap- 
ping his gold pencil on the top of his antique desk 
(one of the finest Chinese Chippendale pieces ever 
produced west of the Mississippi). "It's simply im- 

The Man and his wife looked at each other. 

"Why?" they asked. 

"Because," said the Architect, "there has never 
at any period, in any style, been the kind of living- 
room you are talking about. If you should build 
this astonishing creation, it would have no Propor- 
tion, Symmetry, or Style. In fact, it would have no 
architectural quality of any kind. It would be in- 
correct. It would be bad form. You would become 
a laughing stock. And I cannot allow any of these 
things to happen to any of my clients." 

The Man and his wife were silent and subdued. 
How had they managed to break so many rules? 
All they had wanted was a living-room. 

"Well," said the Man finally, "I can see that we 
should have come to an expert in the first place. 
You had better go ahead and show us what we 
should have in our living-room." 

Gratified, the Great Architect smiled benignly 
and reached behind him for the well-thumbed 
copies of Stately Homes of the English Aristocracy 
of the Early Eighteenth Century by Marmaduke 
Chilblane, and Country Houses of the Borgias, Il- 
lustrated with Photographs and Detail Drawings, by 
Baron Occhio di Porco, and Rooms Louis XIV Was 
Particularly Fond Of by Lady Meddle. The Great 
Architect was ready to design another house. 

The ending of this story is very sad or very beau- 
tiful, depending on how you look at it. The thirteen 
lights were replaced by four very chaste gold-and- 
antiqued-mirror wall brackets and two lamps that 
easily gave enough light so that nobody stumbled 
over the long-legged little tables that were scat- 
tered all over the fine imitation Aubusson carpet. 
When the house was finished, the Man did his 
reading in the bedroom, his wife did her sewing in 
the kitchen, their daughter took over the rumpus 
room in the basement (which was built as an after- 
thought and in sheer desperation), and the swing 
band found quarters in somebody else's house. 
This last was admitted to be a very successful piece 
of planning on the part of the Great Architect. 

The story might have had a different ending, but 


the Man and his wife did not find this out until 
many years after the house was built. By then they 
had become so accustomed to the dreary correct- 
ness of their house and its living-room, and had so 
adapted themselves to its manifold inconveniences, 
that they forgot about the living-room that was de- 
signed for living rather than the gratification of a 
Great Architect, the home magazines, and the most 
sheeplike of their friends. 

But many other people did not forget. There had 
already begun to appear in Switzerland and Swe- 
den and Holland and France, in San Francisco and 
Spring Green, Wisconsin; in New York, Chicago, 
and other places, architects and designers who 
were not shocked by the idea of thirteen lights in 

one room or sliding walls or old leather chairs. 

To these people it seemed perfectly natural to de- 
sign a room for those who were going to use it. A 
room was a space created by walls of some sort and 
a floor and a ceiling, so fitted with equipment and 
furniture that you could do exactly what you 
wanted in it in the way you wanted to do it. 

One of these architects even made a proclama- 
tion about it in the early days. "A house," he said, 
"is a machine for living in." 

The people who came later thought that even 
this declaration cramped their style. And they be- 
gan to forget about the "machine" as an end in it- 
self and to think more about what it could do for 
better living. 




FIRST, WE DO exactly what the family in the last 
chapter did. We make lists. Certain activities will 
cancel each other out. For example, writing letters, 
doing homework, settling the household accounts, 
and various other occupations can all be taken care 
of at a good desk. To be sure, there will be occa- 
sions when one desk will prove inadequate. Some- 
one will want to write letters at the same time 
someone else wants to do homework. If such 
situations are likely to arise very often, planning 
takes this into account by providing a secondary 
desk. This might be the dining-room table or even 
a table in the kitchen. Possibly it will be decided 
that homework will not be done in the living-room 
at all, but in the bedroom, and a space there will be 
planned for it. 


Some of these overlapping requirements may have 
fairly elaborate solutions. But it is both good fun 
and real economy to do this kind of multiple plan- 
ning wherever possible. For example, it is being 
recognized that acoustical treatment has almost as 
important a role to play in the house as it has had 
in offices and moving-picture theaters. As it hap- 
pens, a wall of books has certain acoustical prop- 
erties. It does not reflect sound as readily as a 

smooth wood or plaster wall. Book covers are soft 
and tend to absorb some of the sound. So do the 
cracks between the books and the spaces above 
them. Libraries, you know, are traditionally quiet 
places, and many of us have thought that it was be- 
cause everyone took care not to make any noise. 
Actually, however, the existence of walls lined 
with books constitutes an excellent sound-dead- 
ening treatment. The atmosphere of quiet in many 
libraries is due as much to the books themselves as 
to the considerate behavior of the people reading 
them. Here we have a real tool in planning a liv- 
ing-room provided, of course, that there is a 
desire to absorb sound and make the room quieter, 
and provided, also, that one happens to own a lot 
of books. If both of these conditions obtain, and 
in a great many families they do, we have a method 
of absorbing sound that won't cost a cent, because 
the books have to go somewhere, anyway. 

This is just one example of dozens which might 
be listed. 

If acoustical treatment is to some extent expen- 
diture of money and to a larger extent a matter of 
using one's head, the same is more true of lighting. 
Lighting in the average home is so important, and 
it has been so badly handled to date, that we have 
devoted an entire chapter to it. This much, how- 
ever, might be said here. 




In the living-room more than in any other room, 
flexibility of lighting is exceedingly desirable. The 
room should be bright on some occasions, dim on 
others. It should have many special installations 
designed to make reading, sewing, and other ac- 
tivities as easy on the eyes as possible, and at the 
same time it should not become so cluttered with 
fixtures either table or floor lamps that cleaning 
and moving around become inconvenient. 

The problem of providing light where it is 
wanted, and in the proper quantity and quality, 
cannot be solved with conventional home fixtures. 
For this reason many architects have turned to the 
equipment produced for commercial and indus- 
trial rather than domestic use. They are already 
producing home lighting of high quality and 
flexibility. (In this book you will find that a great 
deal will be said about flexibility.) 


Consider, for example, the initial disagreements 
of our family when they began to plan their living- 
room. Much of the argument revolved around 
questions of seating. Father wanted his comfortable 
old leather chair next to the radio. Mother wanted 
couches and chairs for committee meetings, bridge, 
and entertaining her friends. Daughter wanted 
seating facilities, too, but of a different kind. On 
many occasions, although they didn't talk about it, 
the family wanted practically no seating at all 
just one or two chairs where one or two people 
might sit quietly and read or talk or listen to 
music without feeling that the room looked too big 
or too barren. 

Here is a real problem for the planner. How do 
you design a room so that it looks warm and inti- 
mate with two people in it, but never overcrowded 
with thirty? In a way it sounds like an insoluble 
problem, unless one assumes that the living-room 

is to be made out of rubber and stretched on ap- 
propriate occasions. 

The problem, however, is not insoluble. But to 
find the answer or, rather, the answers, for there 
are several solutions it is necessary to look at this 
aspect of living-room design with something of a 
fresh viewpoint. 

As we sit here working on this chapter, we are 
looking at two photographs of living-rooms. Both 
are in houses designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. 
One is a very large room; it must be thirty or forty 
feet square. It is the main room in his country 
house, Taliesen, which was built not far from 
Spring Green, Wisconsin. The other is in a much 
more modest residence in a Chicago suburb. 

In the smaller living-room, which looks as if it 
could take care of a cocktail party for two dozen 
people, there is not a single visible piece of movable 
furniture, with the unimportant exception of a 
small coffee table in front of the fireplace. There is, 
however, a couch built in under convenient book- 
shelves and cabinets which is large enough to 
stretch out on, or to seat six or eight people. There 
are several counters and tables, built against the 
walls, providing very attractive practical surfaces 
on which to put books, meals, flowers, or anything 
else. In the particular photograph we have, it is also 
interesting to see that there are no lamps sitting 
around, because the architect built his lighting fix- 
tures into the ceiling, and all that shows is a flush 
rectangle of frosted glass. 

In the big living-room at Taliesen, this use of 
built-in living equipment is even more remarkable. 
Here, in a small alcove, one can sit all alone in the 
evening by the fire and feel quite comfortable. And 
the same room functions equally well with as many 
as fifty or sixty people. The secret of this remark- 
able flexibility is again to be found in the use of 
built-in seating, which is always so inconspicuous 
that it seems like a part of the room's architecture. 
Yet, when a crowd turns up, it is always available 
for people to sit on. 



The peaceful atmosphere of such rooms as these 
must be experienced to be fully understood. But 
the basic idea, that the room itself provide seating 
and table top space rather than accomplishing 
these functions with furniture moved in after the 
room is done, is of great importance. It is also im- 
portant to note that in such rooms the essential 
equipment is provided at the walls. The center is 
free. It can be left clear or chairs and light tables 
can be moved in as they are needed. This is part of 
what is meant when we talk of flexibility. 

How many of the living-rooms with which you 
are acquainted are too cluttered? If any of us were 
honest about our own houses and those of our 
friends, we would be forced to agree that half or 
more of the furniture which gets in one's way could 
well be eliminated and replaced by less expensive, 
less conspicuous, built-in units, and that a great 
deal of the junk lying around on bookshelves, 
table tops, and so on, could be thrown out or at 
least put in cabinets where it would be out of the 


The old idea of the living-room never included a 
closet. Nor was storage space of any kind consid- 
ered essential. There might be a table with two or 
three drawers in it, which would be jammed with 
playing cards, seed catalogues, letters, canceled 
checks, and dozens of other odds and ends. But 
this could hardly be considered storage. 

Phonograph records, for instance, need to be 
kept safely out of sight, away from dust. There is 
no need to mess up the room with them. The same 
is true of game equipment chess and backgam- 
mon boards, bridge tables, poker chips, score pads, 
and the like. And there are always the extra ash 
trays, cartons of cigarettes, coasters for glasses, and 
all the other paraphernalia of entertainment. 

This, incidentally, provides one of the major con- 



trasts between the living-room in the modern house, 
which invariably has one or several cabinets filled 
with shelves, drawers, and compartments, and the 
conventional type of interior where nothing of the 
sort is provided. 

Attention to storage units as a factor in provid- 
ing greater flexibility for living also has a profound 
effect on the housewife's problems of keeping the 
place in order. There is a house in one of New 
York's suburbs, for instance, with a living-room 
supplied with forty-five running feet of storage 
cabinets. These extend the full length of one wall 
and out into the hall. The whole house, in fact, is 
equipped with all sorts of storage units in addition 
to the usual closets, and one result, according to 
the owners, has been a great saving in time and 
energy and money. 

Originally it was believed three servants would 
be needed to keep the house in order. When the 
family moved in, it was found that two did the job 
very well a saving which paid for all of the extra 
units (in a few years, it might be added). Then, 
when the war came and servants disappeared, the 
family found that it could run the house under its 
own steam without too much difficulty. 

"Clutter" can mean a great many things. In 
many of Frank Lloyd Wright's houses the floors 
are of brick or polished concrete. In some cases the 
rugs have been omitted entirely. This might sound 
like an exchange of comfort for ease in cleaning, 
and most people would prefer the comfort. How- 
ever, these houses are radiant-heated through warm 
water pipes embedded in the concrete floor slab. 
The major source of discomfort with this kind of 
floor its coldness has consequently been elim- 

This does not mean, of course, that rugs should 
be discarded. It simply suggests that they can be, if 
for any reason the owner feels that it would be de- 
sirable or more economical. 

Pictures on the wall are another, and a particu- 

larly irritating, way of cluttering up interiors. The 
pictures in most houses are so appallingly ugly or 
commonplace that it is impossible to understand 
how they got there in the first place. They have long 
since ceased to be objects providing any enjoyment 
for the family or its friends, but nobody dares to 
get rid of them because of the marks they would 
leave on the wall and because the room would look 
so "bare" without them. 

The argument here is not against pictures if 
they are pictures one can look at with honest en- 
joyment but against the misunderstanding of the 
essential purpose of a picture and its proper use. 

A picture is not a decoration. It represents in a 
limited area some experience an artist has had, 
which, when communicated to other people, gives 
them a certain amount of pleasure and a better un- 
derstanding of the world around them. In this 
sense a picture is not entirely unlike a book. But 
who would sit and read the same book over and 
over and over again day in and year out? The only 
known example the hypothetical castaway on the 
imaginary desert island with the ten best books is 
the closest approximation to date, and who would 
want to be in his spot? 

It is true that decorators will frequently "build 
a room" around some picture. They will set a print 
of a masterpiece for instance, a Van Gogh land- 
scape over the fireplace and take the yellows and 
greens and blues and earth red and repeat these 
colors in the curtains, upholstery fabrics, wall paint 
or covering, and so on. The result is proclaimed to 
be an artistic and harmonious job where picture 
and room become a unified whole. Actually, it is 
the cheapest trick imaginable for borrowing some 
of the respectability of an acknowledged work of 
art for the purpose of making a decorating job look 
more impressive. 

Keying a room to a picture would be a good idea 
if one didn't get tired of the picture. But anyone 
with eyes in his head and a minimum of honesty 



must confess that any picture, however fine, be- 
comes very boring if looked at for very long. The 
reason most of us do not get impatient with the 
pictures in our houses is that we have long since 
ceased to look at them. 

The solution here is again provision for flexi- 
bility. One of the storage cabinets whose uses we 
have just been considering could perfectly well hold 
a dozen or a hundred favorite pictures. Whether 
they are originals or reproductions, incidentally, 
doesn't matter a bit, except to those snobs who are 
unable to appreciate art except in terms of how 
much it costs. The reproductions on the market to- 
day, so many of which are the same size as the 
original and very faithful in their rendering of color 
and even of texture, are just as good from the view- 
point of the average man as the originals. This is 
indicated clearly enough by the fact that you can't 
tell half the time whether you are looking at an 
original or reproduction until you are about six 
inches away from it and who wants to look at a 
picture at a distance of six inches? 

A storage cabinet, perhaps one placed under the 
window, would probably hold more pictures than 
the average person buys in a lifetime. There's no 
need to worry about storage space for frames, be- 

rU/wn&fl/ Cop 

cause they could perfectly well stay on the walls. 
With four frames of different sizes and all of your 
pictures mounted in mats to fit one or another of 
these four standard frames, you could change your 
pictures whenever you wanted to, and in about the 
same way that museums have always done it. Any 
reliable framer, by the way, can fix the backs so 
that mats can be slipped in and out conveniently. 

The reason for talking about pictures and pic- 
ture framing at such length is very simple. We are 
not interested in passing on home decorating ad- 
vice useful as such an activity may be. The pur- 
pose of this book is to build up an attitude towards 
the house and all of its parts, an attitude which will 
help produce a living design adapted in every way 
to the physical and emotional requirements of the 

From the attitude stems a course of action. It 
consists of clearing out everything whose useful- 
ness is doubtful and retaining only those items that 
stand up under critical examination. This involves 
analyzing your needs, a provision not ordinarily 


This method of attacking the whole question of 
how to live can pay the most extraordinary divi- 
dends in the most unexpected ways. Take, if you 
like, the question of the dictionary which most 
families own. In a surprising number of cases this 
dictionary is a fairly husky volume. If the library is 
the living-room, as is usually the case, this diction- 
ary will be tucked away on a bookshelf, and be- 
cause it is so clumsy to handle, it really doesn't get 
handled, and the purpose for which it was bought 
is therefore lost. Nevertheless, there are ways of in- 
stalling dictionaries in the average home so that 
their use is made easy, in fact, made definitely at- 
tractive. One and a fairly old one, at that is the 
provision of a sloping shelf, somewhere in the 


book-shelf section of the room, reserved for the 
exclusive use of the dictionary. If possible, there 
should be a small light over it. The normal prob- 
lems of handling a clumsy book are eliminated by a 
design which takes care of it. Other solutions would 
involve the use of one or another of the gadgets 
sold to libraries and schools, which consist of turn- 
ing stands built on the principle of a Lazy Susan, 
or inclined shelves on arms, set into the wall so that 
they can be swung out of the way. 

Is this too much trouble to take for a dictionary? 
It could be. It depends entirely on how much you 
want to use one and whether or not you want the 
children to grow up with the habit of referring to 
the dictionary when they don't know the meaning 
of a word. 

Design in this sense is an expression, an exceed- 
ingly personal expression, of a way of living. Hous- 
ing the dictionary is part of this way of living, and 
this problem will be solved or not depending on 
how you feel about dictionaries. Multiply this proc- 
ess by a thousand, and you have a house that is 
really designed. 

Up to this point we have been looking at the liv- 
ing-room as a series of solutions to very practical 
problems like the provision of storage space, the 
proper handling of pictures and special books, 
flexible seating, getting the right amount of light in 
the right place, and so on. There are other qualities 
to be produced which are quite as important in 
their way but much less tangible. 


For example, there is the whole question of space, 
the most vexing problem of all the problems the 
modern architect has to contend with. Should a 
living-room look spacious or small? Both kinds are 
good; a combination is best. Should it be higher 
than the otheK rooms or the same? Should it open 
out to include a porch or a garden, or should it re- 

main shut in? Will it have to function at its best 
with a lot of people in it or just a few? Is it to be 
formal or informal? 

These questions are hard to answer, except in the 
most specific terms applied to specific problems. 
Yet answer them we must. 

The little sketches below indicate some of the 
steps to be taken on the way to a solution. 

We start with a rectangular box sixteen or eight- 
een feet wide, twenty or twenty-four feet long, 
seven and a half to eight and a half feet high. This 

is a good enough size for the better-than-aver- 
age home. Unfortunately, the better-than-average 
home rarely gets any further in its design than the 
provision of this rectangular box. 

The nice thing about a box is that it is familiar, 
easy to design and build. Its disadvantages are that 


it is comparatively inflexible, hard to light, visually 
uninteresting, and acoustically atrocious. 

These sketches, which show one kind of transi- 
tion from a conventional boxlike interior into one 
that is better organized for use of indoor and out- 
door space, illustrate some of the possibilities at 
the disposal of the designer today. If the house is 
largely or entirely a one-story design, the freedom 
to change ceiling height and the outlines of the 
room is greater, of course, than if there were a floor 
above. This is one advantage of the one-story 
house, and as we go along we shall come across a 
good many others. 


Along with the question of space comes the re- 
lated question of what encloses the space. Here we 
find all the richness of modern technology and tra- 
ditional building to delight and confuse the would- 
be home builder. 

Not so long ago it was generally assumed that 
the walls of a room any room were finished in 
plaster, which was either painted or papered, and 
that was about all. If one could afford it, plaster 
was replaced by wood paneling in the study and by 
tiles in the bathroom, and that was really all. 

Today the list of materials actually used by ar- 
chitects for the interiors of houses is a very long 
one. First come the dry sheet materials with which 
you can make a wall or ceiling in no time at all. 
Some of these materials are designed to be left ex- 
posed. Most of them, however, require painting or 

inpfi r- 

papering and are not radically different in appear- 
ance from plaster. They are just more convenient 
to handle. Some of them are insulating boards in 
addition, which gives them an advantage over 

Then there are the laminated materials the 
most common of which is plywood whose use 
makes it possible to get a tremendous variety of 
natural wood finishes without spending much 

Some architects have used exterior materials in- 
side the house, and with great success. For exam- 
ple, a brick wall is finished as brick inside as well as 
out. Similarly, you can have walls of natural stone 
or wood. These devices are used primarily to give 
the house a unity inside and out that conventional 
houses seldom have, but in addition they have 
great decorative effect and the advantage of requir- 
ing no maintenance. This is not a new idea; it was 
used in some of the best of the early Colonial 

A rule that the wise home builder should follow 
is never to use a material that requires maintenance 
if one can be found that does not. This saves mon- 
ey, to be sure, but far more important, it keeps the 
house looking well year after year. Houses of per- 
manent materials that do not require maintenance 
age gracefully and inexpensively. A wall of brick 
or stone will look as well in a hundred years as it 
does when built. More accurately, it will look a 
great deal better, because time deals kindly with 
such materials, softening their sharp edges and en- 
riching their color. 



One of the nicest things about contemporary design 
is that it has no set pattern: you can have as much 
formality or informality as you like, and you can mix 
these qualities in any way you see fit. Both of the 
rooms shown on this page, for example, are archi- 
tecturally severe, but they differ radically in furni- 
ture. Room I is extremely informal, emphasizing 
comfort and conviviality. Room 2 shows a carefully 
studied, even ascetic furniture grouping. The hand- 
some chairs and tables are American-made pieces 
designed by Alvar Aalto, famous Finnish architect. 

Not all modern interiors are bare, nor 
need they be unless you happen to 
like bare rooms. Good contemporary 
design varies all the way from the 
severe simplicity of the apartment liv- 
ing room shown in view I 3 to the 
rich warmth of room 1 7 or even com- 
bines the two effects, as has been done 
in the combination study-living room 
pictured in 15. View 16 shows the 
living room in a city house, designed 
especially for entertainment and care- 
fully studied to produce ideal acous- 
tical conditions. The glass wall looks 
out on an enclosed, and therefore 
completely private, court around 
which the house was built. 

Pattern and decoration may be provided by the fur- 
nishings, by construction materials, or even by cer- 
tain essential equipment as in the case of the 
corrugated ceiling panels which furnish radiant heat 
for the story-and-a-half living room shown in picture 
21. Sometimes the most important decorative 
element may be the view outside the window, as 
in room 22. In the city apartment shown, in 18, a 
glass block wall serves the dual purpose of shutting 
out street noises and providing light and an interest- 
ing background for the furnishings; the simplicity 
of room 20 is set off by a ceiling of v-jointed boards. 
And, as picture 19 shows, a rough stone fireplace 
can be just as much at home in a modern interior 
as in its traditional setting. 


Some of the drama which large glass areas make 
possible is suggested by picture 23, which shows 
the living room of a beach house overlooking 
the ocean (picture 24 shows the opposite side of 
the same room). That similar effects can be achieved 
on a smaller scale is demonstrated by the other 
rooms shown, all of which employ walls of fixed and 
movable glass to add to the feeling of space. 

The large window modern architecture's most 
important contribution to house design can be 
used in a great variety of ways. In 28, the de- 
signer has employed a series of large, fixed, 
lights separated by structural posts to form the 
entire view side of a second-floor living room. 
In 29, the living room has been divided into 
two parts by use of fixed, floor-to-ceiling glass 
flanked by ventilating sash in one portion 
of the space. Views 3 I and 32 show a large, 
two-level living room which combines a glass 
wall opening onto a terrace with a projecting 
plant window at one end. Picture 30 shows 
still another window treatment employing a 
checkerboard of wood mullions to support fixed 
glass. Big glass areas of this type have been used 
as successfully in the northern part of the coun- 
try as in the south and in California. 

Planned furniture arrangement, worked out for 
convenience as well as appearance, is another im- 
portant contribution of modern architecture. Pic- 
tures 33 and 34 show two views of a large living 
room designed with a definite use-pattern in mind. 
In this example, notice how two entirely different 
furniture groups have been provided one around 
the fireplace, the other, mostly for daytime use, 
near the large windows. In 35, a terrace window 
takes the place of the conventional fireplace as the 
focus for the main furniture group. Pictures 36 and 
37 show how similar planning principles are applied 
to less pretentious houses. 


i _. * 




THOSE OF us who grew up in the traditional middle- 
class home of thirty or forty years ago remember 
quite clearly that dining was never much of a prob- 
lem. There was a large kitchen with a table in it for 
the hired girl newly arrived, in all probability, 
from Sweden, Ireland, or Poland. She was an af- 
fable, immensely competent person who could 
whip up anything from a snack to a banquet at 
short notice and somehow managed to do not only 
the cooking and dishwashing but the serving as 
well. For dining, the family had the dining-room. 
Everyone who was anybody had a dining-room. 
The notion of eating anywhere else would have 
been considered very strange indeed. 

Because families were bigger, the dining-room 
was a pretty ample space, and its already large 
table in the center could be expanded with leaves 
so that a dozen people could sit down together for 
Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner. Over the center 
of the table, hanging on gilt brass chains, was the 
most ornate lighting fixture in the house. It usually 
had at least three lamps and a dazzling array of 
stained glass. This fixture was not only the fanciest 
piece of applied art in the house of the period, it 
was also the most efficient. And presently, in dis- 
cussing the dining-room of today, we shall find that 
we come back to it. 

In the early 1900's a tablecloth with folding pads 

underneath was considered a "must." Few, if any, 
people had even dreamed of replacing the expen- 
sive, hard-to-launder tablecloth with today's place 
mats. As a result there was a second piece of fur- 
niture in the room a sideboard, which was really 
a linen closet turned on its side and set up on legs. 
This contained the tablecloths for everyday dining 
and formal family dinners, and the wonderful lace 
contraptions which were spread out only on the 
most impressive of ceremonial occasions. The top 
of the sideboard contained the silver, which, if 
Father had made any money at all, was almost as 
hard to lift as it was to clean. This alone kept the 
maid pretty busy, for gleaming silver was the hall- 
mark of a properly run household. But this was not 
all. Somewhere else in the room there was a great 
glass-and-wood cage, usually with an intricately 
carved front behind which the family kept its real 
treasures. There was the set of china that Grand- 
mother had brought back from her wedding trip 
to Germany. There were the porcelain shepherds 
and shepherdesses made perhaps in the kilns of 
Carlsbad or in one of the great establishments out- 
side Paris. There were little china dogs and cats 
from the famous English works. And perhaps a 
polished piece of stone presented to the family by 
Uncle Ezra on his return from a trip to the Petri- 
fied Forest. There were cut glass pitchers so ornate 



that Mother really hated to pour water out of them. 
There were small bottles filled with sand from the 
beach at Nassau or Bermuda, surrounded, no 
doubt, by the inevitable collection of seashells. 

All these treasures needed space, and they got 
space. Nothing could be farther from our minds 
today than a desire to ridicule them. The old-style 
dining-room was a fine thing and let's not forget 
it. It was a family social center. It was so comfort- 
able that people sat for long hours after dinner, 
swapping stories, cracking nuts, and drinking wine. 
Because it had the only decent lighting fixture in 
the whole house, this was where the children did 
their homework, and where games were played. 
Special tables for whist were to be found only in a 
few big houses, and the folding card table was not 
yet what it has since become. 

This picture lasted into the twenties, when two 
things happened simultaneously. First was the 
surge of prosperity which swept the country from 
one end to the other and reached its peak in 1929. 
Second was the fact that Greta the maid had found 
that she could make more money and live much 
more pleasantly if she got a job in a store or office. 

Because of these two things, something new ap- 
peared in the middle-class house. The dining-room 
remained, but a brand-new element, the breakfast 
nook, was added. This was sometimes part of the 
pantry, sometimes a separate little sunroom with 
benches for four and a table in between. The break- 
fast nook was both a sign of the general inflation 
going on at the time and a very practical response 
to the shortage of servants. The family began to do 
most of its eating in the breakfast room, because it 
meant less work and fewer steps for Mother, who 
was now the cook. The dining-room turned into a 
kind of architectural vermiform appendix, which 
was kept because the operation of removing it had 
not yet become fashionable. 

The next stage occurred in the thirties, when, as 
Macy's puts it, it became smart to be thrifty. Sud- 
denly a split arose in the ranks of the house plan- 
ners. By now money was scarce, and something had 
to be done to provide adequate houses within 
shrinking budgets. The dining-room was the logi- 
cal victim. Elaborate scientific studies were made 
to prove that here was a room which should never 
have existed in the first place it took up many 


cubic feet of space in the house but was used only 
three or four hours out of the twenty-four. This, 
they cried, was inefficient and the era of the liv- 
ing-dining-room was inaugurated. 

The more modern-minded architects saw a num- 
ber of rather interesting features in the living-din- 
ing-room. They were being forced to make living- 
rooms smaller again because of shrinking income 
and they didn't like it. Moreover, some space 
had also to be provided for eating. By using one 
end of the room for this purpose, or perhaps an al- 
cove, they were able to create the illusion of more 
space than actually existed for general living pur- 
poses. But once the first flush of enthusiasm for the 
new idea began to wear off, it became obvious that 
here was no millennium. The living-dining-room 
was a makeshift, frequently quite satisfactory, to be 
sure, but nevertheless an expedient to save space 
and money. For family meals it worked fairly well, 
although the peace of the living-room in the even- 
ing was sometimes shattered by the setting of the 
table at the beginning of the meal and the removal 
of the dishes at the end. Moreover, the kitchen was 
now next to the living-room, and the clatter of 
dishes being washed came through the swinging 
door so clearly that people began to wonder why 
they bothered to have a door. For formal meals, 
dining in the living-room was much less satisfac- 
tory, because while the family might have hardened 
itself to these new inconveniences, there was no 
reason to inflict them on the guests. 

This brings us to today. As far as the middle-in- 
come family is concerned, the maid-of-all-work is 
farther away than ever. Budgets are more ample 
than they were during the depression years, but 
more and more money is being diverted from space 
into equipment, most of which is by no means gad- 
getry of a luxury nature but machinery which must 
be purchased to make up for the lack of available 

So the problem of the forties is much the same 

as it was in the thirties. The temper of the people, 
however, is not the same. There is evidence of a 
growing desire to recreate certain aspects of social 
life within the home on something approximating 
the old-time basis. Its reflection in the work of mod- 
ern-minded architects is very interesting. Among 
these architects, who are still comparatively few in 
number, there is this feeling about dining : that no 
arrangement is acceptable unless a definite space 
can be established where meals may be set up and 
cleared away without causing disturbance to any 
other part of the house. 


There are five places where a family can have its 
meals: it can eat (1) in the dining-room; (2) in the 
living-room; (3) in the kitchen; (4) in a breakfast 
nook; and (5) outside. It is perfectly clear from 
these possibilities that the dining-room is ideal if 
service facilities exist ; that the living-room is only 
partly satisfactory ; that the same is true for the 
kitchen (at least, the kitchen the way it is today); 
that the breakfast nook to do a complete job must 
really become another version of the dining-room; 
and that meals outside are either a seasonal affair or 
confined to limited sections of the country. 

There is another way of analyzing eating require- 
ments. We have (1) family meals; (2) meals for the 
younger children, probably served separately; (3) 
formal dinners with or without guests; and (4) 
snacks whether at midnight or any other tune. 

How these requirements are met is a decision 
primarily for the family rather than the architect. 
If you won't consider giving a formal dinner any- 
where but in a separate dining-room and the bud- 
get won't stand the cost, formal dinners will have 
to go by the boards. Should family meals in the 
kitchen seem most practical except for a prejudice 
against dining in a cold, white room, consider the 
possibility of treating the kitchen as the warmest, 
most cheerful room in the house. 



Solving the problem of where to eat, however, is 
not nearly as uncompromising a matter as it used 
to be. There are all sorts of new solutions: some 
are so unconventional that the kinds of space de- 
veloped do not yet have generally accepted names. 


One of the first proposals of this kind was a room 
in an exhibit at the New York World's Fair. It was 
designed by Allmon Fordyce. 

Fordyce's approach to the problem was based on 
an analysis similar to the one just outlined, and he 
decided that a solution worth trying was an en- 
tirely new kind of room, which he called the kitch- 
en-living room. In this room there were easy chairs 
and a dining space and all of the cooking and dish- 
washing facilities. It was divided by a kitchen coun- 
ter which contained a sink, with cupboards and 
shelves above. Instead of a white stove and refrig- 
erator, these fixtures were a dull midnight blue. The 
white sink was replaced by gleaming metal, and 
everything else in the room, including the cup- 
boards, was carried out in natural color wood. If 
the "ooh's" and "ah's" in front of this exhibit 
could have been converted into shiny five-cent 
pieces, architect Fordyce would have been a very 
wealthy man by the time the Fan" closed, because 
people saw in this design not just a good-looking 
kitchen, but a brand-new way to live in a house. 
Here was a kitchen which accepted the fact that 
nobody except the very rich was going to have serv- 
ants. The kitchen-living room not only lightened 
the burden of housework, but it was also good- 
looking enough for guests. This was a completely 
new idea and yet a very old one: Fordyce had 
simply resurrected and modernized the old farm- 
house kitchen. 

During the next few years other versions of the 
kitchen-living room appeared in various parts of 
the country. Generally, the reaction was pretty fa- 
vorable. Somehow this new kind of space corre- 

sponded not only to an economic situation but also 
to a changing idea of how to live. The snobbery of 
the twenties disappeared. No one thought it strange 
that the housewife should do the cooking and that 
guests should help with the dishes. 

Meanwhile, designers were finding that there 
were almost as many variations to the living- 
kitchen idea as there were families. In 1943 maga- 
zines showed a kitchen designed for the Libbey- 
Owens-Ford Glass Company. Use of a sliding wall 
made it possible not only to open the kitchen to the 
dining and recreation area, but even to merge these 
spaces with the living-room on occasion. A series 
of hardwood covers for sink, stove, and other 
equipment converted the work area into an interior 
handsome enough to glamorize any buffet supper. 
This ingenious publicity device was nothing more 
than a re-use of many separate ideas which had 
been suggested by many different architects. It 
proved that one could have a living kitchen or a 
more conventional arrangement, depending on the 
position the sliding wall happened to occupy. 

We like the living kitchen. We think it solves 
many problems which would otherwise stump the 
family of moderate means. But maybe you don't 
like it at all. What then? Who is right? The thing 
about houses that makes designing them so end- 
lessly fascinating is that everyone can be right. If 
your life is not complete without a room devoted 
solely to dining, if the idea of eating in the same 
room where food is prepared is revolting, it is your 
inalienable right to demand a dining-room. There 
is nothing whatever wrong with that. Just remem- 
ber that it costs more than no dining-room, which 
brings us back to where we started to tastes and 


While we now seem to have a solution which 
can be worked out with a great number of varia- 
tions, we also have new problems. One is the mat- 


ter of acoustics, and you will find considerable dis- 
cussion of sound control in the kitchen in another 
chapter. This much, however, is worth emphasiz- 
ing here: The more flexible a plan becomes, and 
the more it relies on open spaces which can be sub- 
divided or merged at will, the more acute becomes 
the problem of acoustics. The kitchen is a natural 
noise-producing center, and what sounds cannot be 
stopped at their source must be absorbed in one 
way or another by the ceiling and walls and floor. 

There is also the problem of cooking odors, 
which are now free to move through the entire liv- 
ing area of the house. This is discussed in Chap- 
ter X. 

Lighting also becomes a problem, because one 
kind is needed for the work center, another for the 
dining table, and a third for the living area. If 
spaces are to be related in a flexible manner and 
activities overlap, lighting will also have to be flex- 
ible. Equipment to meet all these problems exists. 


One of the most wonderful houses ever built is 
Taliesen, the home of Frank Lloyd Wright, out in 
the hills of Wisconsin. It is an immense, rambling 
sort of structure, which today is beyond the means 
of any except the most wealthy. One thing that 
strikes the visitor most forcibly about this house is 
not so much its size or cost, but the manner in 
which the architect and his family and students 
vary the eating routine; with little difficulty and 
considerable satisfaction. In addition to the sepa- 
rate dining-room where everyone generally eats, 
there are little terraces here and there where on 
good days meals can be taken on wheeled serving 

tables. And there are also built-in tables in the 
living-room and sitting-room. 

The same possibilities should be considered for 
a house on a much smaller scale even the average- 
size house built for four or five people and contain- 
ing three or possibly four bedrooms. If there is a 
fireplace in the master bedroom, there is no reason 
at all why this space should not be used on occa- 
sion not by the whole family, of course, but by 
one or both of the parents. Small outdoor sitting 
spaces, whether sheltered or open to the sky, are 
equally usable if planned in convenient relation to 
the kitchen. The living-room or the library alcove 
could have similar provisions. 

This part of dining has nothing whatever to do 
with efficiency, but with the fact that family life, 
due to the necessary repetition of a number of un- 
interesting chores, can become extremely dull, and 
even slight variations from normal habits can pro- 
vide a considerable lift. 

This seemingly minor problem was left to the 
end because it highlights what should be the funda- 
mental approach to planning. Questions of effi- 
ciency, mechanical design, lighting, acoustics, and 
so on, are important; but they should be solved 
and brushed out of the way as fast as possible. The 
basic requirement is to provide a framework for 
living, not for running machinery and this is the 
foundation on which really successful planning 
must ultimately be carried out. The broader the 
picture of how to live, the better the plan. If this 
extends to an occasional snack in front of the fire- 
place, so much the better. It is the joint responsi- 
bility of the family and the architect to see to it 
that not a single one of these small enrichments to 
the pattern of daily existence is omitted. 




FOR MANY YEARS lighting in the home has been pro- 
vided as an afterthought. It was conceived in terms 
of fixtures rather than illumination and occupied 
an almost negligible place in the building budget. 
For this reason the interior of the average home, 
which should be the best-lighted interior that could 
be designed, is among the worst. People do their 
evening chores, homework, bridge playing, read- 
ing in fact, carry on practically all home activ- 
ities under lighting conditions which the owner 
of the corner delicatessen would not tolerate for a 
moment and which would run a factory owner out 
of business in no time. 

Homes are badly lighted, but not because of lack 
of knowledge. Quite the contrary is true. Our tech- 
nicians know a great deal about lighting, and the 
purpose of this chapter is to describe some of the 
things they have found out. Since lighting experts 
are not hired, as a rule, to work on designs for the 
home, many of our examples will be commercial or 
industrial. The fundamental principles of good il- 
lumination, however, are the same. If we seem to 
wander away from the house from time to time, 
these digressions will not be irrelevant. 

We are going to start to talk about lighting in 
terms of the eye rather than the fixtures. Illumina- 
tion is something related to seeing, and only to 
seeing. Consequently nothing could be more to the 
point in a discussion of lighting than an under- 
standing of the peculiar limitations of the eye and 

its extraordinary latitude. A number of technica 
terms are going to be used, but not one represents 
an idea that is too complicated to grasp, and each 
has to be understood before home illumination can 
be discussed with any degree of sense. 


When the Holland Tunnel was built, the engineers 
who designed it were very conscious of the impor- 
tance of this great project for linking Manhattan 
with New Jersey, and they tried to make their cal- 
culations as nearly perfect as possible. This was 
particularly true of the lighting, for with the im- 
mense volume of automobile traffic planned, no 
single factor was more vital in assuring a safe and 
steady flow of cars. After the tunnel was com- 
pleted, it was discovered that the lighting, for all 
the trouble taken with it, was anything but perfect. 
It was also found that there was no such thing as 
an "ideal" amount of light. 

This is what was the trouble. Drivers who en- 
tered the tunnel on a brilliantly clear day invariably 
found the inside quite dark at first. This was caused 
by the difference in intensity between full sunlight 
and the lamp light in the tunnel, and there is not 
as yet any practical apparatus for lighting things as 
brightly as the sun does. Moreover, on entering the 
tunnel after dusk, the same group of drivers found 
the same intensity of illumination too great. In 



other words, "perfect" lighting for the Holland 
Tunnel was not a fixed quantity at all. To work 
properly at all times it would have to vary in in- 
tensity, depending on what was going on outside. 
The same problem, in a different form, appears in 
the home. 


Some years ago, when the RAF began its great 
bombing raids over Germany, there were many 
stories of how the fliers were conditioned for their 
hazardous night missions. They were fed carrots. 
They were kept in darkened rooms for hours, so 
that retinal sensitivity would be increased to a 
maximum. Everything which could be imagined 
was done to reduce the pilots' difficulties in dis- 
tinguishing the targets they were to find and de- 
stroy. For a while everything went well. 

One night a fleet of Lancasters and Halifaxes, 
probing its way to the heart of Germany, ap- 
proached one of the industrial cities. It was 
greeted, not by the customary blackout, but by a 
barrage of intense light thrown up by hundreds of 
searchlights. The result was the same 'as being 
awakened in the middle of the night by a flashlight 
in one's face complete inability to see anything. 
New procedures had to be developed to meet this 
new weapon. 


We have here two very clear illustrations of the 
inability of the eye to adjust itself rapidly to ex- 
tremes of intensity. The British fliers, for instance, 
would not have been particularly disturbed by the 
searchlight barrage had they not been conditioned 
to be almost abnormally sensitive to light. Had 
they flown over in brightly lighted planes the story 
would have been quite different. The drivers in the 
Holland Tunnel had the same difficulty in adjust- 
ing themselves to comparative extremes of inten- 
sity within a split second. 

Because improper lighting in a vehicular tunnel 
could mean terrible accidents with disruption of 
traffic as well as loss of life, engineers the very 
best that could be found were engaged to work 
on this problem. Because the British high command 
could not afford to waste a single night raider, 
they, too, gave their lighting problem the most ex- 
pert attention obtainable. But improper lighting in 
the home doesn't kill anybody or cost measurable 
amounts of money or produce any other immedi- 
ately noticeable effect, and in consequence it has 
been pretty largely ignored. To be sure, it is a far 
cry from the RAF to the reading corner in the 
living-room. But it isn't as far as it seems. 


The question of enough light is something most 
people think about, though not necessarily in very 
precise terms. Did you ever go down to the local 
electrical supply store and wonder what wattage 
bulb to get for a certain fixture? One reason it is 
hard to choose is that the quantity of illumination 
by which the eye can function varies almost beyond 
belief. If the light by which you are reading this 
book comes from a floor or table lamp, the illu- 
mination on the page is probably somewhere be- 
tween five and fifteen foot-candles. (Afoot-candle 
is the quantity of light thrown by a single candle 
on some point a foot away from the flame.) If to- 
morrow afternoon you were to take the book out- 
doors and read in the shade of a tree, however, the 
illumination would be around 500 foot-candles, or 
thirty to one hundred times as much. And, as far 
as comfort is concerned, it would be hard to tell 
the difference. 

"Fine!" one might say at this point. "This little 
fact will save me a lot. If one can read at almost 
any intensity, why waste good money on unneeded 
wattage?" The eye is a willing and wonderfully 



adaptable instrument ; if necessary it will function 
admirably for reading even by firelight. Unfor- 
tunately, while we can see remarkably well under 
extremely unfavorable conditions, there is a mus- 
cular and nervous strain involved and a dispropor- 
tionate amount of energy expended. So this saving 
would not pay off nearly as well as one might 
think. In the first place, as the intensity is lowered, 
we see more slowly. This has been proved by an ex- 
periment repeated so many times in hundreds of 
factories that industrialists now take it for granted. 
People have been given jobs to do with X foot- 
candles of illumination on their work ; then the in- 
tensity was stepped up, for the same work. It was 
found every time that as brightness increases, the 
rate at which the work is accomplished increases 
with it. Up to a certain point the amount of work 
done increases in direct proportion to the amount 
of illumination. After this point is passed it is in 
the neighborhood of 100 foot-candles the quan- 
tity of work continues to increase, but no longer at 
the same rate as the illumination. Finally the 
amount of work increase levels off almost entirely. 

It might be thought that somewhere around 100 
foot-candles would be the most efficient level of il- 
lumination. But continuing the experiment pro- 
duced another fact: above the point where the rate 
of work failed to increase, fatigue continued to de- 
crease sharply. The experiment demonstrated two 
things very clearly: with more light we not only see 
more quickly, but more easily as well. In this latter 
respect there seems to be almost no limit to the 
amount of light we can profitably use. It might be 
noted that even 100 foot-candles is way beyond the 
level of illumination we are accustomed to in homes 
and offices. 

In the best of the modern factories, fluorescent 
or mercury-vapor lamps are jammed together so 
tightly above the tools and assembly lines that 
some interiors seem to have a solid ceiling of light. 
At the Dodge Chicago plant, largest producer of 

airplane engines, no less than $2,700,000 was spent 
on the lighting installation alone. And every penny 
of this sizable investment was made by men who 
do not buy things for factories unless they pay off 
in terms of production. Matthew Luckiesh prob- 
ably the outstanding authority on lighting seems 
to consider the best factory installations not yet 
good enough, for his investigations have led him 
to recommend intensities at working levels of 500 
to 1,000 foot-candles for some operations, running 
as high as 3,000 for tailors who work on blue serge. 
A few years ago such levels of brightness would 
have been considered unthinkable. 

The first facts to be noted about intensity, there- 
fore, are (1) that our eyes are extremely bad judges 
of quantity of illumination; and (2) that so far as 
productivity, comfort, and health are concerned, 
we can scarcely get enough light. Point one can be 
taken care of by using the services offered by most 
local offices of the electric light companies, which 
will provide data on desirable levels of illumina- 
tions, lamps necessary, etc. Some will even send 
around a man with a light meter to check the pres- 
ent installation. Point two is partly a matter of bud- 
get, since current costs money, and partly a matter 
of fixture design. Lamps with tight, heavy shades 
can absorb most of the light paid for before it gets 
into the room. 

"Enough light" is not the whole story. We have 
all experienced the unpleasant sensation of sud- 
denly entering a room that was "too brightly 
lighted." The same effect is sometimes produced 
by a show window on a dark street. The quantity of 
illumination is not the important thing here, but 
the sudden change in quantity. The show window, 
for instance, might have been lighted to 150 foot- 
candles, the room to 100 and yet a pleasant view 
from a mountain may be lighted to as much as 
5,000 foot-candles by the summer sun. The catch 
is that what we consider too much or too little in 
the way of light is a matter of where we have been 


just before entering or looking into the space in 

A while back it was stated that from the prob- 
lems of the RAF to those of lighting a corner of 
the living-room was not a very far cry. It is equally 
true for the shop window and the factory. In all 
cases the eye is at the receiving end, and some ap- 
paratus at the other. Eyes have to function in 
safety and comfort whether at a turret lathe or the 
evening paper. There are many industrial jobs far 
less exacting than darning socks, as far as seeing is 
concerned. It is as important to have sufficient light 
for home tasks as for operations on the production 
line, even if the home tasks never appear on any 
balance sheet. But "enough light" doesn't do the 
job if the lighting is all out of proportion to the 
general illumination of the room. And the general 
illumination, in turn, must be so scaled that it is 
not blinding to eyes that have been "dark adapted" 
like those of the British night fliers by a walk 
home through poorly lighted streets. 

It appears, therefore, that while intensity is a 
vital consideration in proper lighting design, it is 
by no means the only one. Contrast is the next fac- 
tor to be considered. Just what does this mean? 


Let us imagine that a person is sitting in his favor- 
ite armchair, reading a magazine by the light of a 
floor lamp that has a 100- watt bulb. This lamp, 
shining on the magazine's page at a distance of 
three feet, produces the relatively low intensity of 
twenty foot-candles. But there is no other light in 
the room, so that areas around the magazine are 
only dimly illuminated by the stray light from the 
lamp. The foot-candle intensity of these areas will 
be one foot-candle at most, producing a contrast 
ratio of twenty to one between the white page and 
the surrounding areas. Thus if the person reading 



has occasion to look away from the page from 
time to time, his eyes have to adjust themselves 
very rapidly to a considerable change in brightness. 
This is hard work, and the demands made on the 
eye are serious. When the eye first turns from 
brightness to darkness, the iris has to open up to 
its widest aperture, quantities of retinal fluid have 
to be generated very quickly; and even with these 
great efforts on the part of the eye, it takes a few 
seconds before anything can be distinguished in 
the comparative obscurity. Then, when the eye 
turns back to the bright page, the reverse process 
has to be gone through, with the result that for a 
moment you have an uncomfortable feeling that 
the page is much too bright and glaring. 

Now consider another case of contrast. Imagine 
a living-room in which there is a central lighting 
fixture containing a single exposed bulb say, 
1,000 watts. The room would be very brightly 
lighted, but it would also be very badly illumin- 
ated, in spite of the amount of money being spent 
to run the 1,000-watt lamp. It would be bad be- 
cause the light source would be visible from all 
parts of the room and would therefore be a source 
of discomfort; because every shadow cast would be 
relatively black; and because the very brightness of 
the illumination would defeat the purpose of seeing. 
One can see into a shadow only when some light 
issues into it, either by reflection or directly. The 

sun, incidentally, gives the same kind of lighting as 
the 1,000-watt lamp: it is a brilliant point source 
which casts sharp, dark shadows. It is the custom 
to talk of the sun as an ideal kind of illumination. 
It is, if you perform the simplest, most "natural" 
activities in sunlight. But it is very bad indeed for 
the many complicated jobs eyes have to do under 
modern conditions. Therefore, while the sun will 
appear again in this discussion, it must be under- 
stood that proper room lighting is far more com- 
plex than setting up a single bright source of il- 



One place to look for more clues to good home 
lighting is in the newer retail shops. Here the same 
trend appears that was noted in the factories: ever- 
increasing intensity of light. We also find special 
characteristics which stem from the nature of a re- 
tail business, but these can be disregarded. The 
modern shop has a high level of over-all illumina- 
tion. This may be provided by strips of fluorescent 
lamps or cold cathode tubing, by coves, by high- 
intensity incandescent fixtures, and by a variety of 
other equipment. Over and above this general il- 
lumination there is special lighting. There are light 
fixtures for showcases and built-in displays, spot- 
lights for particular items of merchandise, and 
lenses set flush with the ceiling to provide powerful 
down light at certain locations. These add up to a 
lot of ways to illuminate a shop, but the progres- 
sive merchant of today, like the progressive indus- 
trialist, is finding that he can hardly have too many 
of these fixtures for the job he would like to see 

Did it ever occur to you to consider how much 
simpler it is to light a store than a home? After all, 
the merchant has merely to illuminate his goods, 
which are for the most part in the same places all 



the time, get enough light in the store as a whole 
so that people can see their way around comfort- 
ably, and attract attention to a few special items by 
means of spotlights. Compare this with the prob- 
lems of the home, where the light for eating must 
be variable in intensity and directed down to the 
table; the light for reading (which may be done 
after dinner at the table) must be brilliant, and the 
surrounding areas must be bright. Conversation in 
the living-room needs a dim arrangement, a few 
soft pools of light serving more for decoration than 
illumination. For constant sewing we have already 
noted Mr. Luckiesh's recommendation of 3,000 
foot-candles, a standard which could be met only 
by use of very special equipment. For reading in 
the bedroom one kind of illumination is needed, 
and for dressing in the same room a totally differ- 
ent type is needed. There should be night lights in 
the bedrooms bright enough to see by, but ar- 
ranged in such a way that the children won't be 
awakened. And so on. 

The job of lighting the small house is just as ex- 
acting as the job of lighting the local department 
store. Yet the normal investment is less than a 
hundred dollars for the wiring, and a few dollars 
more are thrown in for the necessary wall and ceil- 
ing fixtures. When next you hear someone predict- 
ing a better, cheaper home of the future, think for 
a moment of what it would cost to produce any- 
thing approximating adequate illumination. 

Expenditures for lighting have to be increased 

because they have never been up to normal. Even 
the houses of the very rich suffer in this respect, not 
because of lack of funds, but because there was no 
understanding on the part of the owner or archi- 
tect of what should be done. Today the story is dif- 
ferent. There is a vast accumulated experience 
which cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to ac- 
quire but is now at your architect's disposal for 
practically nothing. 


Let's assume that you are building a new home, re- 
modeling the old one, or fixing up an apartment, 
and you have called in a lighting consultant. A trip 
through the rooms might prove instructive. A spe- 
cialist worthy of the name will not talk fixtures pri- 
marily; this much should be clear from what has 
already been written. He will talk about certain 
qualities to be created through the use of specific 
equipment. He will be interested in getting results. 
If our expert started on the living-room, he 
would probably point out a number of deficiencies 
right away. If there are any of those silly little wall 
brackets builders inserted so freely into dwellings 
a few years back, he would undoubtedly suggest 
tearing them out. They are annoying to look at, 
clutter up the wall, catch dust, and don't give any 
light worth mentioning. He might criticize the floor 
lamps as being clumsy, space-wasting fixtures. It 



would undoubtedly turn out that most of the table 
lamps were too low to read by or had poorly de- 
signed shades. Little of the lighting equipment 
would meet with his complete approval. In setting 
up an illumination pattern for the living-room, our 
expert would probably establish the following re- 
quirements: (1) A reasonable over-all intensity 
throughout the room. No dim corners. No black 
shadows; (2) concentrated, direct light where it is 
needed; (2) flexibility, both in placing of light and 
in intensity. 

Meeting these requirements is highly technical, 
and not easy, but the ideas are simple. Point (1), 
for example, means that the room must be flooded 
with light, and the common procedure is to install 
some kind of fixture that throws light up to a white 
ceiling which, in turn, reflects the light back to all 
parts of the room. This can be done with a lighting 
cove that goes all around the edges of the ceiling, 
or with lamps that direct light up instead of down. 
The ceiling itself might be luminous, that is, made 
of glass or plastic with lights behind. For a home 
such a procedure at the moment is far too costly 
and quite unnecessary. 

In a room filled with indirect light the Ulumina- 
tion is good in the sense that there are no deep 
shadows, and light is diffused throughout the area. 
But it is not pleasant illumination. There is no con- 
trast. Objects seem to lose their sharpness and 
solidity. Indirect lighting is "flat." Therefore, in 
the well-designed living-room it provides only the 
background, not the main illumination. 

One way to get this background of light is to use 
the so-called "direct-indirect" fixtures. These are 
most frequently seen in houses in the form of 
lamps so designed that light is thrown up to the 
ceiling, and the ceiling reflects it down to the table 
or book. Use of translucent shades gives a note of 
color and warmth which makes the room far more 
attractive and homelike. 

But direct-indirect lamps do not always give the 
needed amount of light for reading, writing, or 
sewing. This is where point (2) comes in. Concen- 
trated light can be provided in a great variety of 
ways. A bulb in a reflector will do it. So will any of 
the inside-silvered lamps which are seen so often 
in show windows and art galleries. There are lens- 
type spotlights which can be built directly into the 
ceiling so that only a flush piece of glass shows. 
Also available are the small spotlights used for dis- 
play purposes in stores. Some of these will seem 
inappropriate for use in the living-room. If the 
idea of a spotlight fastened to the wall strikes you 
as too radical, use a more conventional solution 
such as table lamps with properly designed shades. 
The point is: concentrated, direct light must be 
provided where it is needed. 

At this stage in the process the room may be 
said to be well lighted and agreeable in appearance. 
There is a general glow of light everywhere, prob- 
ably provided by indirect lighting. There are pools 
of light created by individual lamps. And if one 
wants to read or sew, a strong light source is avail- 
able. But there still remains one problem to be 

If people always did their reading in exactly the 
same place; if they always sat in the same group- 
ing; if they always carried on the same activities 
if these things were true, a fixed lighting scheme 
would be the answer. But they are not true. Some- 
times people talk but do not read. For this less light 
is required. Sometimes they listen to the radio and 
don't talk. This requires still less light. These and 


4- a. 

other shifts in the use of the room demand lighting 
that is not only adequate and attractive, but flexible 
as well. 

On the stage, if less illumination is required, the 
electrician merely operates his dimmers until the 
desired level is reached. Few homes today can af- 
ford such controls. But they can afford the extra 
switches and wiring that will do approximately the 
same job. In other words, the living-room should 
be so equipped that the wall switches control two 
or three lighting patterns. Another control possi- 
bility is afforded by the three-way lamp, which is 
being used more and more in floor and table lamps. 
There are also fixtures which tilt up or down to be- 
come direct or indirect. Electrical supply stores 
have sockets so built that the bulb can be pointed 
in almost any direction. These devices are excellent 
for the direct-type lighting units mentioned above. 
Gadgets such as swivel sockets and extra switches 
are not recommended for their own sake: they add 
flexibility and control to the conventional lighting 

"More light" is a slogan that could be applied 
with profit to almost any room in any house. When 
considering the living-room, don't be afraid of 
making it too bright. The intimacy of an attractive 
room comes not from dimness, but from the bal- 
ance of the different kinds of illumination. This, by 
the way, is easy to prove. If the bulbs in your pres- 
ent lamps were taken out and replaced by photo- 
floods, which have perhaps fifteen times the light 
output, the room would be much brighter, but the 
character of the lighting would not be changed 

greatly. Should you want to try this experiment, 
photofloods can be purchased at any photographic 
supply store. But don't leave them in the lamps! 
Photofloods have a rated life of only two to six 


We need light to eat by as well as for reading. But 
illumination of the dining-room is a vastly different 
problem from illumination of the living-room. The 
dining table, normally, is a fixed object. The people 
who use it are, for the period of the meal, equally 
fixed in their positions. This means that the lighting 
scheme can be more static. 

The only light needed for eating is light on the 
table. Background illumination has only to be suffi- 
ciently bright to reduce excessive contrast between 
the table and its surroundings. But light for the 
table is not merely illumination: let us remember 
that the one place in the modern home where the 
candle still has any functional justification is on 


the dinner table, where the flickering light and 
warm color do an excellent job of glamorizing the 
food, the tableware, and the diners. The main fix- 
ture, whatever it is, must be capable of producing 
a comparable result. This can be achieved by hav- 
ing a strong, direct light shining down on the sur- 
face of the table. The light is best if it comes from 
an incandescent bulb rather than a diffused surface 
such as a fluorescent tube. The closer the light re- 
sembles a "point source" that is, the bare fila- 
ment of the lamp the more pronounced the glitter 
will be, and the glitter of dishes, glassware, and 
silver is one of the things that makes a dining-room 
table good to look at. Direct downward lighting 
has another function: striking the surface of the 
table, it bounces back up and provides a certain 
amount of illumination for the room as a whole. 
The best design, however, does not rely entirely on 
this reflected light, but provides a secondary light 
source which gives general illumination for the 

Types and sizes of fixtures for the dining-room 
are legion. One safe rule in their selection is that 
the simpler and less conspicuous they are, the bet- 
ter. One example of the rule carried to an extreme 
is the concealed spotlight that shines down through 
a small hole in the ceiling. Here the source has been 
made practically invisible, and results are some- 
times dramatic. Variations include bulbs on the 
ceiling, so shielded with metal baffles that the 
source of the light is very inconspicuous. Con- 
cealed lamps, while theatrical in their effectiveness, 
have a disadvantage. It is not that they can't do a 
good job, but that dining tables are rarely used 
only for eating. 

Light for dining, in the average home, is almost 
always used for other pursuits in addition to eat- 
ing. For one thing, some dining takes place in the 
kitchen and in the living-room. Many houses have 
no dining-rooms at all. And if they do, the table is 
probably taken over for homework, for the semi- 

yearly game of poker, or cutting out dresses. So 
once again the flexibility question raises its head. 
Light for eating can be fixed. But in tomorrow's 
house there will be no such thing as a light exclu- 
sively for eating. In consequence, when the lighting 
pattern for the dining area is created, the same solu- 
tions discussed for certain living-room activities 
will again be appropriate. 



By now the ways of our hypothetical expert 
should be more clear. He is concerned with illu- 
mination, not with chandeliers and imitation can- 
dles. In each room he seizes upon the major and 
minor activities and tailors the lighting to fit. His 
approach is creative, not conventional. It is the 
same as the approach of the modern architect to 
planning. Nowhere does this attitude express itself 
more clearly than in the solutions for special light- 
ing functions. 

In a child's bedroom, for example, the expert 
would borrow the idea of enclosed lights, set flush 
with the baseboard, from standard hospital prac- 
tice. Such lights would be rather nice in halls, too, 
and they aren't impossibly expensive. 

We have become accustomed to lights in refrig- 
erators and clothes closets. In the new bureaus that 
are being treated as built-ins rather than loose 
pieces of furniture, why not lights in the drawers? 


Anyone who ever tried to find a pair of dark socks 
on a dim winter's morning would bless the manu- 
facturer for the rest of his days. At the moment 
bureau lights sound expensive, but even the cheap- 
est cars have lights in their glove compartments. 

Most of us take for granted the existence of a 
fairly good lighting set-up for the bathroom mir- 
ror. But there are other mirrors in the house where 
people apply lipstick, straighten hats, and so on, 
where equally good illumination is needed. There 
is no particular trick in making mirrors that have 
their own little lighting systems built in. 

Recent models of cars are almost sure to have a 
tiny light in the dashboard which illuminates the 
area where the ignition key goes in. Yet there is 
nowhere that one can buy a similarly convenient 
gadget for the front or rear door keyhole. For an 
ingenious architect, providing such a convenience 
would be no problem at all. 

Theaters with stairs have small lights built into 
the top and bottom steps of each flight a wise and 
economical safety measure. Did you ever see a 
house so equipped? Yet insurance companies are 
always releasing horrifying statistics on the number 
of accidents that take place on stairs in the home. 
Theaters have another device which is agreeable 
and inexpensive: tube lights (the same as those in 
neon signs) in hollow railings along the aisles. A 
stair illuminated in this manner would be safe, and 
unusually good looking as well. 

One of us once visited a house in the Middle 
West which had a very remarkable lighting unit in 
the dining-room. It was an elaborate gadget of 

frosted glass, containing three lamps red, blue, 
and yellow each controlled by its own switch and 
dimmer. The controls were located in the pantry. 
The system, of course, was borrowed from theater 
footlights. By fooling around with three knobs on 
the pantry wall, the owner was able to get almost 
any color and intensity of light he wanted. All 
three lights turned on full, for instance, produced 
white. The red and blue produced various shades of 
violet; the yellow and blue, various shades of 
green; and all three used together but in varying 
quantities had limitless possibilities. 

This kind of toy in the hands of a practical joker 
could wreck more than one beautiful friendship. 
What a reddish lavender light would do to a char- 
treuse dress, for instance, is beyond imagining. And 
if the lady in chartreuse happened to be the boss's 
wife, it would be just too bad. 

Silly as this may sound, there is the germ of a real 
idea here. In a living-room it might be desirable to 
vary the over-all color within certain limits, be- 
cause in this room the atmosphere will shift all the 
way from maudlin to meditative, and changing the 
color as well as the intensity of the lighting could be 
useful either in heightening the mood or suppress- 
ing it. The effectiveness of lighting and color is not 
to be sniffed at. We all know what the ruddy glow 
of firelight does to the mood of a group. The de- 
signers of the Palace of the Soviets in Moscow have 
planned to use changing color to help regulate the 


speed with which crowds will move through its vast 
halls and corridors. And for a father interested in 
locating someone to take over the support of his 
daughter, a lighting installation using some color 
might work wonders. 


Quality in a house or a car or a suit of clothes 
costs money. The same is true for lighting. And any 
prospective builder who studies this as a separate 
budget item will not be too happy when he sees the 
figures. One reason the cost will seem high is that 
people have always spent much too little on light- 
ing. When a family installs a bath, it demands 
high-quality fixtures, pipes that will last forever, 
and faucets that won't leak all the time. The differ- 
ence between the middle-class bath and that in a 
rich man's house is, therefore, pretty much a mat- 
ter of trimmings. But lighting design for the home 
has never gotten beyond the stage of so many out- 
lets per room and a few sockets in the walls and 
ceilings. Thus, to bring lighting up to snuff for- 
getting the lights in the bureau drawers, etc. will 
cost more than people have been in the habit of 

Against this can be balanced intelligent planning 
and wisely selected equipment. Houses are full of 
lamps that cost from twenty to sixty dollars, which 
as illuminating devices, are good for very little 
Hall and dining-room fixtures are often purchasec 
on the basis of looks and snob appeal, which re- 
sults in a considerable waste of money. One of the 
best hall lights we have ever seen consisted of 
swivel socket in a ceiling outlet, an aluminum re- 
flector, and a 60-watt bulb. The total cost was 
under $1.75. There are ways of saving money in 
lighting as well as spending it. 

It is not the function of this book to establish 
budgets, nor to replace the many product cata- 
logues which manufacturers put out. It is our func- 
tion to outline procedures and to present ideas. 
Nowhere is procedure more important than in 
home lighting. It is definitely not an amateur opera- 
tion. In working out illumination patterns, the 
modern-minded architect will be invaluable, for he 
has been forced time and again to seek good solu- 
tions that will fit within his clients' restricted bud- 
gets, and his ingenuity is considerable. You will 
need him, anyway, for the planning and designing 
of the house use him for the lighting as well! 


Simplicity is the keynote of this modern dining 
room from a vacation house in Maine. All of the 
materials were chosen for low first cost and ease of 
maintenance, but they have been combined so 
adroitly that the total effect is of richness and 
warmth. Notice also the way the horizontally 
sliding doors and windows extend all the way to 
the ceiling. This detail, a favorite with modern archi- 
tects, improves appearance, lighting and ventilation. 


Even the most conservative homebuilder is usually 
willing to admit the desirability of a generous win- 
dow in the dining space, and contemporary architec- 
ture, which has made large windows its trademark, 
rarely fails to satisfy this universal desire. In all of 
the rooms shown here, the windows extend the 
entire width of the outside wall, and in two-thirds 
of the cases, from floor to ceiling as well. Two of 
the rooms (46 and 47) employ large panes of fixed 
plate glass set directly in the frame, relying on 
smaller sash, or doors, for ventilation. Two more 
(49 and 1) have floor-to-ceiling sash that can be 
folded back out of the way in fine weather, leaving 
the wall entirely open. The other two (48 and 50) 
use smaller units of glass set in a grid frame. 

Once freed from stylistic restrictions, the problem 
of providing space for dining is susceptible of almost 
as many solutions as there are houses to build and 
people to build them. The dining area may be set 
off by a partial partition topped with glass panels, 
as in 57; it may be combined with a porch cut out 
of the corner of the living room, as in 58 and 59; 
it may be so surrounded with windows as virtually 
to become such a porch itself, as in 60. Or, as shown 
in 6 I , it may be one of an articulated series of spaces 
sharing a continuous window but separated by 
storage units extending part way to the wall. 


^*"*' I 

, c 

It is in the modest house that the modern approach to 
dining pays its biggest dividends: almost any nook or off- 
set in the plan offers sufficient space, if properly handled, 
for an adequate, attractive dining arrangement one 
which does not necessitate the fuss and bother of unfold- 
ing a table and collecting chairs for every meal, and yet 
does not require an entire room to go unused between 
meals. A prime requisite which has been satisfied in all 
of the examples shown is that the dining place be pleas- 
ant, with a good-sized window and if possible, an attractive 
outlook. For this reason a bay window, like that shown 
in 64, is almost ideal, although the same effect can be 
achieved by other irregularities in the plan, as in 67. In 
view 66, the dining area is set off by a plywood panel 
which serves to shield the outside entrance to the room. 


This glazed recreation porch, which connects two 
halves of a divided house in California, shows how 
much sheer space can contribute to modern living. 
Little more costly than an ordinary porch, it pro- 
vides ample indoor room for games and parties, and 
made possible a plan in which the balance of the 
rooms were compact and economical, since fur- 
ther provision for entertainment was unnecessary. 

Living outdoors and partially outdoors is one 
of the major pleasures of owning a modern house. 
Modern heating methods and structural techniques 
which have made possible the window wall and 
glazed, horizontally-sliding doors have created en- 
tirely new types of rooms, as well as an entirely new 
relationship between the house and its site. Some 
of the possibilities are illustrated here: a dining 
porch in Michigan (70); a glazed wall in the rigorous 
climate of northern Pennsylvania (72); a dining 
space, half porch, half room, from California (71). 
The porch in 73, used for games and entertaining, 
is enclosed on one side by a glazed windscreen, open 
on the other for fresh air and unobstructed view. 





THE OLD SAYING that there is nothing new under 
the sun, like so many old sayings, has a moderate 
amount of truth in it, and anyone looking for argu- 
ments to prove its truth can find ammunition in 
what has been happening to the kitchen during the 
past fifty years. Most people in America look back 
to a childhood in which much time was spent in a 
kitchen quite different from the room called by the 
same name today. For one thing, the old kitchen 
was big. For another, it was not merely a place 
where cooking was done. It was the work center of 
the home and it was also a social center. Here, by 
the stove, children were bathed, food was canned, 
laundry was done, and meals were eaten. In the 
evening people sat in rockers by the big, round 
table and read, sewed, studied, played games, and 
talked. The kitchen was the heart of the home. 

In recent years the kitchen, like other parts of the 
house, has shown an extraordinary tendency to 
shrink. Enthusiasts for the "minimum" kitchen 
pointed out that several hundred people could be 
provided with complete meals from a dining-car 
kitchen so small that you could hardly turn around 
in it. The efficiency boys counted the number of 
seconds it took the housewife to get from here to 
there, the inches to the flour can, the steps from the 
refrigerator to the stove and back again. Their 
dream was a kind of circular closet where the house 
wife stood in the center and reached for everything 
without moving. They never got quite that far, 
which is just as well, but they did get awfully close 

to it, which was not. Efficiency in the home and the 
well-being of the housewife depend on more factors 
than steps and minutes. 

For one thing, the housewife is not a chef on a 
Pullman diner. She does not have to feed two hun- 
dred people a day. And the chef, lucky fellow, does 
not have to make beds, run to answer the door, or 
keep two or three children under control while he 
is cooking. Moreover, as the kitchen shrank to the 
point where it was virtually impossible to get a din- 
ing table in it, it simply meant that the steps saved 
in preparing meals were more than made up for by 
the necessity to get dishes to the distant table and 
back to the sink again. If this was efficiency, it was 
a very strange kind. 

Then there was the question of laundry. There 
was no room for it in the minimum kitchen. For 
families that had a laundress it didn't matter too 


much if the equipment was down in the basement, 
but it mattered a great deal if the laundry was an- 
other of the housewife's jobs. Have you ever tried 
starting a meal in the kitchen, starting a wash in the 
cellar, running up once to see what the children 
were doing, a second time to answer the phone, and 
a ninth or tenth time to take care of some other 
upstairs chore? And have you ever met anyone 
who enjoyed the discomfort of working in a damp, 
badly lighted space? Maybe hauling sixty pounds 
of wet clothes from the basement to the drying yard 
was good for mother's figure. The chances are, she 
would have preferred to meet this problem in some 
other way. 

This does not mean there are no reasons for hav- 
ing a basement laundry. A recent survey made in 
one of the big war housing projects showed that 
tenants were about evenly divided in their opinions 
on this point. Those in favor of keeping the laundry 
underground had two reasons for this preference 
one was that they did not like the mess laundry 
makes in the kitchen; and the other was that 
clothes could be dried in a pinch downstairs if it 
was raining. There are answers to both these argu- 
ments, however. One is that if the tenants had com- 
plete work centers instead of oversized closets 
labeled kitchens, doing the laundry would not 
make a mess. But a far more important answer is 
that equipment is rapidly getting to this point in 
fact, some of it has been designed where the 
washer, dryer, and ironer take up a phenomenally 
small amount of space. The increasingly popular 
first-floor heater room, incidentally, would be an 
excellent place for drying clothes if it were planned 
with this in mind. 

There is another potent force which is doing a 
great deal to swell the kitchen to its old proportions 
that is, the servant problem. Very few families, 
percentagewise, have ever been able to afford hired 
help. Servants, as a group, are disappearing. World 
War I took women out of domestic occupations 

and put them into offices. World War II took a 
vastly greater number and put them into factories. 
The middle-class families and the rich, thrown 
more and more on their own resources, have been 
casting a jaundiced eye on the minimum kitchen. 


The modern kitchen cannot be a small room. It 
must be a big room possibly the biggest room in 
the whole house. It should contain all the cooking 
facilities, all the laundry equipment, probably the 
heater, and certainly all necessary space and facili- 
ties for family meals and even meals when guests 
are present. 

You will remember that a while back we talked 
about the kitchen-living room, an idea which has 
steadily gained in popularity. This is merely an 
expansion of the work center idea. Advocating this 
kind of planning doesn't mean that it would make 
sense for every American family to start doing 
everything in the kitchen. It certainly does not 
mean that dining under all circumstances has to go 
on next to the sink. But it must be emphasized that 
if families who do their own work are going to re- 
duce the mechanics of living to the minimum, this 
scheme has a great deal to be said for it. If you can 
afford a kitchen work center plus a dining-room 
and a living-room, well and good. But unless you 
are in the top income group, you won't be able to 
afford all of them. This is the main argument for 
the work center. The housewife spends a dispro- 
portionate amount of her time working around the 
kitchen, and there is every reason why this room 
should be designed to be a completely livable, as 
well as workable, interior. 

One of the great inventions of the thirties was the 
so-called streamlined kitchen. It was full of cab- 
inets which stuck out a uniform distance from the 
wall and below-counter cupboards which made it 
difficult or impossible to sit comfortably on a stool 



while you worked. The streamlined kitchen was 
sold in the name of efficiency and good looks, and 
it was made this way because it was easy to manu- 
facture. It was an improvement, but it was by no 
means a complete solution. Food preparation re- 
quires, among other things, the provision of work- 
ing surfaces at different heights. Some operations 
can best be performed standing up, others sitting 
down. And if you sit down, there has to be some 
way of getting your knees under the counter. The 
streamlined kitchen, unless it included a planning 
desk or an old-fashioned table in the middle, of- 
fered no such conveniences. 

There were other faults in this de luxe interior. 
The refrigerator was and still is, for that matter 
a bulky, clumsy box, poorly adapted to most types 
of storage and exceedingly wasteful of power. Get- 
ting at one small item meant holding a big door 
open while quantities of expensively cooled air 
spilled out. The present day stove, in which the 
broiler and oven are practically down at the floor, 
is another example of equipment which in some 
respects is worse than the models sold twenty years 

The ideal stove and refrigerator have been 

attempted time and again by designers, but they 
have yet to be put into production. Ultimately we 
will be able to buy packaged kitchen units which 
include refrigerators broken up into three or even 
more separate compartments, and stoves which 
have broilers and ovens at working height. Unfor- 
tunately we cannot wait for "ultimately." 

However, there is one weakness in the stream- 
lined kitchen we can do something about. That is 
the disposition and design of the storage cabinets. 
By building a ring of over-counter cabinets all 
around the room we get a considerable amount of 
well-located storage space. Unfortunately, the 
windows suffer. Some architects have tried to solve 
this by putting glass above and below the cabinets. 
But a far more attractive and workable approach 
would be to take all the cabinets off the main win- 
dow wall and put them elsewhere. There could be a 
storage wall (see Chapter XII) on one side of the 
kitchen. Running from floor to ceiling, it would 
have adjustable shelves like the existing cabinets, 
but it would have far more of them than we are 
accustomed to. It would also provide the shallow 
storage space which is so desperately needed. Cans, 
bottles, glasses, and small packages of food should 



not be stacked three deep or, for that matter, two 
deep. An irritating operation performed in any 
kitchen (it would probably be more accurate to say, 
in every kitchen) is the endless business of taking 
down everything at the front of a shelf to find some- 
thing sitting at the back. No millennium is needed 
to remedy this; if your architect works out a suit- 
able design, any mill or even a good carpenter can 
build it. One trick is the arrangement similar to the 
one we have on refrigerators, where the door itself 
contains some of the shelving. It would be no 
trouble at all to build some storage cabinets so that 
half of each shelf is on the door and the rest in the 
unit itself. 


There-seem to be only three general plans for the 
arrangement of cooking equipment and the accom- 
panying fixtures. There are the U, the L, and the 
straight-line plan. We have seen examples of all 
three types in kitchen work centers. Since they all 
seem to have advantages, it would be difficult to 
recommend one over the other two. With the U, 
for example, one leg sticks out into the middle of 
the room. In many ways this is excellent. If the sink 
is put into the projecting leg, it means that dishes 
can be taken directly from the table to the sink 
without going into the cooking area itself. The U 
scheme also tends to segregate the cooking opera- 
tion which has its points. 

The L, on the other hand, because it follows two 
walls of the room, leaves more open space in the 
middle, which again has its advantages. The straight- 
line set-up has the outstanding virtue of being the 
least conspicuous, because once the dishes are put 
away the entire room becomes available for other 
purposes. On this point you will have to make up 
your own mind. The arrangement should be re- 
lated to family habits and personal preferences and 

a pat solution which will work equally well foi 
everybody cannot be developed. 


When we think of a kitchen, we think of three 
items: sink, stove, and refrigerator. The work cen- 
ter, however, has a lot more than three items. It 
would be wise to plan for possible additions. Foi 
one thing, it will almost inevitably have a quick- 
freeze unit which will finally be reduced to com- 
pact, cabinet size. It will also contain the laundr> 
equipment, which, as we have seen, is also shrink- 
ing to manageable proportions. The rapid improve- 
ment in dish- washing machines, some of which will 
also dry the dishes (this has been a standard ar- 
rangement in many restaurants for some years) 
means that more and more people will consider 
them necessary rather than luxury items. The same 
is true of that wonderful gadget which disposes of 
garbage by grinding it up and flushing it away. 

We have here, incidentally, still another reason 
for increasing the size of the kitchen. The old 
kitchen simply isn't big enough, anyway, if these 
additional items are going to be included. But let 
us not assume that new equipment is the whole 
story. The greater the number of things, the more 
important the planning. If the room is so arranged 
that traffic through it and work in it conflict at any 
point, the room is no good. You can't have a 
laundry, no matter how efficient, if it interferes with 
food preparation because it isn't in the right place. 
The same is true of the placing of storage units. 
And the same is true of the dining furniture. 


The house described all through this book is a 
basementless house. The main reasons for leaving 
out the basement are described in Chapter XII. Such 
a house works only if equivalent space is provided 
above ground. This is particularly true of the fur- 


nace. It used to be necessary to keep the heater in 
the cellar because most systems worked on gravity. 
Heat rose to the rooms above by convection, 
whether air, steam, or hot water was used, and it 
fell again, thus completing a cycle. Most plants 
today, however, are of the forced circulation type 
that is, they use a fan where air is the medium and 
a pump where water does the job. This removes the 
original reason for keeping the furnace in the base- 
ment. The gradual shift in fuels is the other reason. 
It would be possible to put the furnace in a sep- 
arate room somewhere on the ground floor, but it 
would be equally possible to put it into a kind of 
closet opening off the kitchen. We are assuming 
here that the furnace will use either gas or oil. For 
coal, even stoker-fired coal, much more space will 
be required. But if one of the compact new plants 
can be installed in a closet off the kitchen, it has 
one tremendous advantage, and that is, that the 
kitchen itself contains the space which any heater 
needs to have around it for inspection or repair. 
The saving of space to be achieved in this manner 
by eliminating the cellar is worth making. - 


Let us now try to imagine what the room itself 
might be like. It has one or more big picture win- 

dows, because storage cupboards have been grouped 
in such a way that picture windows could be used. 
It has a fan and duct which keep out most of the 
soot and grease. It probably has an acoustically 
treated ceiling and a resilient floor. If the architect 
has been intelligent in his approach, the room is 
completely free from its familiar hospital operat- 
ing-room atmosphere, thanks to the incorporation 
of natural wood surfaces, bright color, and fabrics. 
The wall adjoining the dining space is movable, 
opening perhaps on the play yard, which might 
also serve as a convenient dining terrace. The 
lighting is wonderfully flexible. There is local illu- 
mination for the work surfaces, direct light for the 
dining table, and soft, general illumination which 
can give this room the same air of livability as the 
living-room itself. If it functions for a good part of 
the day as a playroom, it contains cupboards for 
toys and games. It works beautifully for a large 
number of household tasks, and it looks so well 
that you would be glad to entertain in it, too. 

A short while ago we described the work center 
to a friend of ours. She listened quietly at first, then 
with growing excitement. Finally she interrupted, 
"I could work in that kind of a room!" Of course 
she could! But that's not what we're driving at. 
The point is, she could really live in it. 




A FEW MONTHS ago a young architect who worked 
in Washington wandered into our office to pass the 
time of day and exchange whatever bits of news 
there might be. It was obvious, however, that he 
had something else on his mind. We waited. Pretty 
soon out it came, along with a fat black pencil. 
Paper was found and shoved under the pencil. 
Architects, as you may have heard, are very fond of 
flavoring talk with drawing. Again we waited. 

"Want to see the perfect house plan?" he asked 
finally. He smiled apologetically, but we didn't. Our 
visitor was one of the most brilliant architects in 
the country, and his ideas always made sense and 
were frequently inspired. 

"Sure we want to see the perfect house plan. 
Let's have it!" 

"Well," he began drawing "you start with a 
living-room. Only it isn't really a living-room. Too 
small. It has room for only four or six people, and 

the walls are covered with built-in bookshelves, 
desk, etc. Guess you might call it a study, or parlor, 
or maybe a kind of retiring room. Parents might 
use it to get away from the kids." 

This was a little disappointing. "So what?" we 
asked. "We've seen studies before." 

"I'm not through" still drawing. "Next to it 
there is a small kitchen, cooking on one side, dining 
on the other." 



"Well," he continued, "between this kitchen and 
a third room there is no partition, or maybe just a 
glass partition. The third room is big. Biggest room 
in the house." 


|_| coola*,^ I 



"It does look big," we conceded. "What happens 

"Everything, practically. Ping-pong, bridge, 
movies, dancing. The children can play there. Or 


you could cook in the fireplace. Good place for a 
dinner party, too." 

"What do you call it?" 

"I don't know," he said, puzzled. "I was going 
to call it the 'dirty room' because the materials 
would be practically indestructible, and the kids 
could make any kind of mess without doing any 
damage. But that's not a very good name. It would 
be pretty swell-looking when it was fixed up." 

"It doesn't look like much of a plan to me," one 
of us snorted. "Where's the entrance? Where are 
the bedrooms?" 

"Wherever you want to put them," he retorted. 
"And it isn't a plan, anyway it's a diagram." 

"And what makes it the perfect plan?" 

He looked up from the drawing, surprised. "Why, 
the big room, of course. The room without a name." 

A few days later another architect walked in. He 
had come in from the West Coast by way of Brazil 
and points north. For some reason or other, the 
talk again turned to houses. Our West Coast visitor 
also had a house on his mind. And his house, too, 
had a big room in fact, leaving the bedrooms out, 
all it seemed to be was a big room. 

There were only two partitions in the main living 
area : a light screen wall for the kitchen, and a heav- 
ier barrier that set aside a study, space for reading, 
or just privacy. This latter consisted of bookshelves 
that did not reach the ceiling. 

This seemed to be too good to be a coincidence. 




Had he seen the first plan? No, he hadn't. He had 
been mulling over the idea for quite a long time. 
Looked like the kind of house one might want for 

"Funny," he said, looking at the sketch our 
friend from Washington had made. 

"Yes," we agreed, "it is funny." 

Less than a week after this a man came in from 
Detroit. He was not a house architect at all, but a 
member of a big office specializing in industrial 
plants and office buildings. But he couldn't talk 
anything but houses because he had just purchased 
a piece of land and was going to build himself one. 

Would we like to see the house? Yes, we would like 
to see the house. Out came the pencil. 

Many features of the house were unusual, be- 
cause of special consideration given to the view and 
the sun. But a couple of things immediately at- 
tracted our attention. 

"What's that?" we asked, pointing to a small 
square at the back of the plan. 

"That's the living-room. Good place for it, don't 
you think? No street noises." 

"Sure," we replied. "But it's tiny. You couldn't 
get more than a half dozen people into it without 
a shoehorn." 

"That's true," he admitted. "Iguess you shouldn't 
really call it a living-room. It's more a kind of study 
or parlor, I suppose. My wife and I wanted it be- 
cause we thought it would be a good idea to have 



one room where we could shut the door and have a 
little privacy once in a while. Anyway, we have a 
big room for parties and for the kids." 

Yes, he had the "big room" right across from the 
kitchen. It even had folding doors along the side to 
make it bigger. We told him about the architect 
from Washington and the architect from the West 
Coast. He looked crestfallen, but also pleased that 
he was traveling in such high-powered company. 
"Damn it all!" He grinned. "I thought I had an 
original idea for once." 

"Don't fret," we said. "You did. You worked it 
up on your own, didn't you? That makes it orig- 
inal enough for anybody. By the way, what do you 
call that big room of yours?" 

"You know," he confessed, "I've been wonder- 
ing about that myself. I've thought of several 
you've heard them all but they don't quite seem 
to fit. The room's functions are kind of mixed, any- 
way. It's hard to describe them in a word. Any 

"No," we said. "No suggestions. But what we 
want to know is why are all of you people suddenly 
designing houses that always have one room with- 
out a name?" 

No, we did not invent these stories. The conver- 
sations took place in exactly the order we have 
related them. What is more, other architects have 
since come around with variations on the same 
theme. Why? We aren't sure why this is happening 
in so many different places at the same time, but we 
have an idea. 


Contemporary houses have been planned to pro- 
vide an acceptable minimum of living facilities 
within an absolute minimum of space. In playing 
this game, architects and builders took the living- 
room, bedrooms, kitchen, and bath, and worked 
them over and over until the last "wasted" square 

inch had been extracted. "Living-room, dining- 
room, kitchen, and bedroom" became a set for- 
mula which was supposed to provide all the living 
space the average family needed. The only trouble 
with the formula was that it ignored living. But 
people don't forget about living, no matter what 
the smart speculative builders and the routine- 
minded architects say. 

People, praise God, don't stay put in pigeonholes, 
no matter how the compartments are labeled. And, 
because they are neither animals nor machines, 
they end up by demanding space for activities that 
don't fit into the pigeonholes, although nobody 
seems to be able to find a suitable name for that 
space. The purposes and potentialities of the space 
are too indefinite to label as yet, but they are none 
the less real. 

Our "room without a name" is not entirely new. 
Many houses used to have something like it. Do 
you remember the houses of the seventies and 
eighties that had towers growing out of a tangle of 
roofs? Generally absurd in size and shape, the 
towers were always picturesque. The funny little 
cut-up rooms inside were the exciting property of 
the children, who used them for everything from 
playing steamboat captain to hiding from imag- 
inary enemies. Such leftover rooms, however, were 
not always for the children alone. In some of the 
more accessible rooms Mother kept her sewing 
things and odd assortments of household para- 
phernalia. In others, Father created his private den, 
where the happy disorder of papers, books, pipes, 
guns, and the rest was never disturbed by the 
intrusion of a dustcloth or broom. 

Old houses had other spaces, too. In many base- 
ments there were comparatively uncluttered spaces, 
where electric trains could be set up and the mes- 
sier hobbies carried on. The "rumpus room" of 
more recent vintage extended these activities to 
include games, dancing, movies, and so on. Such a 
basement room, though more completely deco- 


rated, was still a makeshift or afterthought, and it 
was usually the unforeseen result of shifting from 
coal to a cleaner and less bulky fuel. Moreover, 
none of the basement playrooms covered the broad 
range of uses we are talking about. 

Some people have already gone beyond the base- 
ment playroom in their houses. A striking example 
is a house built to sell for $20,000 in a Chicago 
suburban development. It has a ground-floor space 
called a recreation room, which is about as large 
as the living-room and is separated from it by a large 
sliding door. It can be reached from both front and 
back entrances without going through the living- 
room, and it is well equipped to serve the purposes 
of the "big room." The idea obviously had genuine 
appeal, for the house was sold in short order. 


There seem to be as many reasons for this kind of 
room as there are people. A successful woman edi- 
tor of a New York magazine is planning to build a 
room without a name as an addition to her home. 
Connected to the house by a glassed-in passage, it 
will function partly as a greenhouse, partly as a 
breakfast and miscellaneous-purpose room. For 
any family interested in hothouse plants and flow- 
ers such a room would provide a fascinating back- 
ground for living as well as space for its hobby. 

The greenhouse idea suggests any number of 
other hobbies which might be served by such a 
room. Properly designed, it might take care of 
messy ones, such as indoor gardening, carpentry, 
model building, metal working, painting, and the 
like; or others, such as music, which require only 
space for their full enjoyment. It is in connection 
with the noisy and dust-producing activities like 
the use of a power saw, however, that the advan- 
tages of the room are most effectively demonstrated. 

On closer examination the room without a name 
shows a number of definite characteristics. An im- 
portant one is that it is totally lacking in privacy. 

Any member of the family may use it, and for 
practically any purpose. Since a major complaint 
about the house as it is now planned is the lack of 
privacy, it is interesting to see a room appear which 
insists on its "public" nature. We would not be en- 
tirely correct in concluding that this is just the 
living-room function slightly revamped, for the 
living-room traditionally has been set aside for the 
adults, and for a limited number of activities. 

There is another interesting point about this 
room: it marks the first time a room for the whole 
family has appeared in the home since the days of 
the farmhouse kitchen. Coming at a time when the 
family is less tied to the home than ever before in 
its history, this fact presents something of a contra- 
diction. "For the family," by the way, doesn't 
mean that all rooms in today's houses are specifi- 
cally limited to certain members; we are merely 
pointing out that the "big room" is intentionally 
set up to cover the family's social and recreational 
needs, and that the usual adults-versus-children 
distinction has been abandoned. 

A third idea also presents itself. By frankly de- 
veloping a room which is entirely "public" as far 
as the family and its guests are concerned, privacy 
is made possible. Because there is an "extra room," 
the other living space can really be enjoyed in peace 
and quiet. The children's rooms, too, are no longer 
under the same pressure to double as playrooms 
and sleeping-study spaces. 

These three ideas combine to produce a picture 
of a need and a trend. The need is clear enough: a 
house must be planned to meet adequately a nor- 
mal family's requirements of both privacy and 
joint activity. It need hardly be mentioned that a 
"normal" family's requirements are by no means 
standardized. Some families are sociable, others 
are less so. Some have their fun with lots of noise 
and a considerable expenditure of physical energy, 
while others have as good a time more quietly. The 
room without a name, therefore, cannot follow any 



stock design or stereotyped arrangement; it is far 
too intimate an expression of a family's tastes. In 
spite of this, the room does seem to have certain 
standard features. Its furnishings and materials are 
definitely on the "tough" side, designed and se- 
lected to stand up under extremely hard usage. In 
all probability it will not include anything that 
might be damaged by dirt or dust, and it should be 
easy to clean. Since it will, on occasion, serve for 
entertainment of a fairly formal kind, it will have to 
have storage cupboards where toys, games, and 
tools can be kept out of sight. What furniture there 
is would tend to be built-in, or light in weight and 
highly mobile. None of these characteristics, inci- 
dentally, prevents the big room from being a very 
handsome one. 

Granting the need, the actual trend is less clear. 
Can it mean that people are insisting more and 
more on living their lives in the way they want to? 
That they are more concerned with this than with 
impressing the neighbors? The present-day living- 
room, as we well know, is something of a "front." 
This is where guests are entertained; here we gen- 
erally find the best furniture, the most expensive 
carpet, and the least evidence of normal family dis- 
order. For these very reasons its uses are limited. 
Anything that might damage the furniture or dis- 
rupt the orderly arrangement is taboo. There are 
families to whom this does not apply, of course, 
but in general the picture seems fairly accurate. 
Can it be that the living-room is going the way of 
the old-fashioned parlor or more properly, is it 
turning into a special-purpose room like the study? 
Will its functions be divided in the future between 
the small, quiet retreat and the big room? Possibly. 
Certainly the idea has much to commend it. 

Other questions of a broader social character 
suggest themselves. We have all read articles about 
the family its difficulties in the world of today, 

the inadequacies of parents, the waywardness of 
children. Could the room without a name be evi- 
dence of a growing desire to provide a framework 
within which the members of a family will be better 
equipped to enjoy each other on the basis of mu- 
tual respect and affection? Might it thus indicate a 
deep-seated urge to reassert the validity of the fam- 
ily by providing a better design for living? We 
should like very much to think so, and if there is 
any truth in this assumption, our search for a name 
is ended we should simply call it the "family 
room." As a matter of fact, even without social 
theories, it is still a very good and completely accu- 
rate name. 

This much we do know : when a number of out- 
standing architects arrive almost simultaneously at 
the same planning idea, each being entirely igno- 
rant of the others' activities, something is brewing. 
This "something" may not come to a head for 
many years, but it is a matter of experience that 
artists (this includes the best architects) reflect in 
an uncannily sensitive way currents in thought and 
design long before they are popularly accepted. 
What they seem to be anticipating now is a further 
development of the general living area of the house, 
a more freely organized arrangement of public and 
private spaces which would be closer to the actual 
needs of the modern family than anything that has 
been seen hitherto. 

If this should prove to be the case and none of 
us will know for some time whether it will or not 
the validity of the underlying thesis of this book 
will have received confirmation from an unexpected 
quarter. The thesis, as we have outlined it, is that 
tomorrow's house needs no new inventions, ma- 
terials, or techniques for its realization. What is 
required is a deeper understanding of today's 
trends, coupled with the most creative and bold use 
of the techniques already at hand. 




As FAR AS THE home builder is concerned, there are 
two ways of looking at heating, and only two. One 
is to consider the equipment the furnaces, boil- 
ers, ducts, radiators, controls, and all the other 
paraphernalia that go to make the modern heat- 
ing plant what it is. The other is to think of heating 
in terms of bodily comfort and health. Since very 
few of us are equipped to evaluate one piece of 
complex machinery as against another, and since 
we are concerned with the results and not with the 
means, we will look at heating from the second 
point of view. 

There are certain pleasant experiences having to 
do with heating which everyone can recall. Most 
of us can remember the old-style kitchens of our 
parents or grandparents which had a great, black 
coal stove in one corner. And we can remember, 
too, the wonderful sensation of well-being pro- 
duced by this stove on a cold winter's day. The big 
pot-bellied coal stove in the general store, which is 
still the social center of so many rural communi- 
ties, produces the same agreeable effect. These ex- 
periences don't all occur indoors. Have you ever 
gone out on a chill, sunny day in spring or fall and 
noticed what a fine heating job the sun can do once 
you are in a protected corner out of the wind? 
Skiers are familiar with this even in midwinter, for 
it is possible to strip to the waist and still feel com- 
fortable in the direct rays of the sun and those 
reflected from the snow. Most familiar of all, prob- 
ably, is the experience of getting into bed in a cold 

bedroom and, after a brief tussle with frigid sheets, 
enjoying the extraordinary pleasure of breathing 
fresh, cool air while one's body is enveloped in the 
most delightful kind of warmth. 

These examples and we can think of others 
have to do with heating, in spite of the fact that 
the "equipment" in one instance is one's own body, 
in another, the sun, and in a third, a stove. It is 
important to remember such experiences when 
thinking about heating, because all we are buying 
the machinery for is to duplicate in one manner or 
another these feelings of comfort. 

If you live in an average house, it probably con- 
sists of a number of separate rooms, all of which 
can be closed off from one another. It probably 
has two floors, sandwiched between a basement 
and an attic. Finally, the windows in relation to 
the total wall area are fairly small. You will recog- 
nize in this description, of course, a typical Colo- 
nial, English, or Victorian house. This kind of 
house is compact and easy to heat. 

If you have a better-than-average heating plant, 
it furnishes automatic heat that is, it runs on gas, 
oil, or stoked-fed coal, and has a thermostat which 
turns the furnace on or off depending on room 
temperature. Yet even with this plant, which repre- 
sents many decades of patient experimentation by 
manufacturers, it is not difficult to recall occasions 
when something less than optimum comfort was 



produced. Frequently there are drafts. Heating is 
often sporadic and uneven. The air near the floor 
tends to be rather cool, and one of mother's major 
chores is to keep small children off it in cold 
weather. Also, the thermostat sometimes behaves 
in a strangely unreasonable manner. When it is set 
at 70 in the evening, the rooms may be too chilly 
for comfort. When it is set at 68 on a sunny day, 
the rooms facing south may be overheated. It may 
have other faults as well. If the system uses steam, 
the radiators are sometimes noisy, occasionally 
produce an unpleasant odor, and tend to soil the 
walls behind and above them. Also, people fre- 
quently complain that the rooms heated in this 
manner are stuffy. 


The tendency in home building today is to move 
farther and farther away from the traditional old- 
style house. Survey after survey has shown that an 
increasing number of people are demanding houses 
on one floor. They don't care particularly whether 
they have basements or not. They like the idea of 
the "open plan," where living, dining, and even 
kitchen facilities are related rather freely to one an- 
other. In the newer plans partitions are omitted to 
gain a feeling of space, as many doors as possible 
are left out, except in rooms like bedrooms and 
baths where privacy is essential, and generally to 
simplify the whole living pattern within the house. 
This is equally true in expensive houses, where 
people can build all the enclosed rooms they want 
to, as well as in cheap ones, where it is necessary to 
eliminate such elements as the dining-room because 
the budget isn't large enough. 

The modern house brings with it great advan- 
tages. That is why people are building more and 
more of them every year. It also brings very real 
problems. We all know that a house with insulated 
walls and few windows is easier to heat comfort- 

ably than a house where entire walls may be made 
of plate glass. We can imagine, too, that if an open 
living space extended from the warm side of the 
house to the north where a cold wind might be 
blowing, there would be a measurable temperature 
difference at the two ends of this space, and warm 
and cold air currents would promptly be set up, 
creating drafts and all of the attendant discomforts. 
When the first modern houses were built, their 
architects were aware of these new problems, and 
they tried in a variety of ways to solve them. One 
method they tried was to use radiators of special 
shapes. For instance, where a picture window ex- 
tended almost the full width of the room, long row 
radiators were installed under the sills so that cold 
air falling away from the window surface would 
immediately hit the radiator. Where air condition- 
ing was used, the typical register was replaced by 
long grilles which ran the full length of the window, 
the purpose being the same to keep the cold air 
from getting into the room and causing discomfort. 
Nevertheless, when all of these things had been 
tried, it was found that air near the floor was still 
colder than it should be even with the thermostat 
pushed up to 76 or 78. And in basementless 
houses where the floor was set directly on the 
ground or above a shallow unheated air space, the 
problem was very serious. Serious, that is, until 
the day when some nameless hero had an idea. A 
very good idea. He thought, "Why not let the floor 
be the radiator? A radiator so big could have a 
very low surface temperature. This would eliminate 
cold floors, and it might have other advantages." 


Young students of architecture who have to learn 
about buildings of many periods run into descrip- 
tions of the Roman bath probably the most lux- 
urious athletic club in the history of the world. In 
studying it, they find that the furnaces were un- 


derneath the rooms, and before the hot flue gases 
were allowed to escape through the chimneys, 
they passed through the hollow floors, thereby pro- 
viding a very agreeable temperature inside. In 
Korea ages ago the houses of the noblemen gener- 
ally had one room called the spring room, where 
they could escape the bone-chilling dampness of 
the Pacific winter. These rooms were heated in ex- 
actly the same way as the Roman baths. There was 
a little furnace, and underneath the floor there was 
a labyrinth through which all of the hot air had to 
pass before it got to the chimneys. These rooms 
did not have heating in our sense they really had 
climate. And it was possible for the fortunate few 
to enjoy quite literally the pleasant freshness of 
spring by returning to the room that was set aside 
for this purpose. 

When Frank Lloyd Wright went to Tokyo to 
build his world-famed Imperial Hotel, he knew 
about this ancient method of heating, and in the 
bathrooms he installed electric radiators under the 
floor possibly the first large floor heating instal- 
lation in modern times. 

In Europe during the twenties and thirties 
"radiant heating," as it was called, began to be 
used rather widely. The heating elements were usu- 
ally put in the ceiling instead of in the floors. How- 
ever, for reasons which we will see presently, the 
exact location of the equipment did not make a 
great deal of difference. 

The most common system of installing radiant 
heating in American houses is to lay a concrete 
slab on the ground with coils of pipe underneath 
the slab. Through the pipes passes steam or hot 
water the latter is preferred at the moment. When 
the furnace is turned on and the heated water be- 
gins to circulate through the coils, the slab above 
warms slowly until it reaches a temperature of 
about 85. A surface at this temperature is barely 

warm to the touch. Instead of radiators scattered 
through the house, we now find that a large part 
of the house itself has become the radiator. 

This huge radiator is not a radiator at all in the 
conventional sense. To understand why, we have 
to make a brief but important digression. We have 
to find out how heat is transferred from one object 
to another. Those who can still remember high- 
school physics will probably find the story familiar. 


Heat, the textbooks say, can be transferred in 
three ways: by conduction, convection, or radia- 
tion. A traffic policeman who must stand for hours 
out in the cold often uses a wood platform about 
three inches high. This prevents contact with the 
cold pavement, or, as we would put it, the transfer 
of heat from his feet to the pavement by conduction. 

People are made uncomfortable by sitting on a 
cold stone fence or by leaning against a cold win- 
dow. The method of transfer in each case is the same. 

In the average living-room where steam or hot 
water radiators are installed, heat is not trans- 
ferred by conduction at all but by convection. 

Convection refers simply to the movement of 
currents in this case, air currents resulting from 
the fact that some currents are warmer than others. 
In the living-room the air touches the radiators, 
gets hot, and rises to the ceiling. Then the cooler 
air comes in to take the place of the warmed air, 
hits the radiators, is also warmed, and also rises. 
Eventually the air loses its heat, drops to the floor, 
and the cycle is repeated. 

What we call radiators are therefore far more 
accurately described as convectors, and this, in 
fact, is what the heating engineer calls them. In a 
gravity-type warm air system (this is the old- 
fashioned kind), the convector is in the basement. 
It is the furnace itself. The cool air drops into the 
air jacket around the fire chamber, gets heated, 
rises in the ducts, and enters the rooms through 



the registers. True radiation, however, is quite a 
different matter. 

Radiation is the third type of heat transfer, and 
the only one that can be made independently of a 
supporting medium. If this sounds like scientific 
jargon, consider one or two examples. Between us 
and the sun there are unimaginably vast spaces 
which contain no air at all. Yet the warmth from 
the sun covers this ninety-three million miles at the 
rate of almost two hundred thousand miles a sec- 
ond. This radiant heat emerges from the great 
clouds of incandescent gas that surround the sun, 
goes through the sub-zero temperatures of inter- 
stellar space, then through our own atmosphere, 
which is a sixty-mile blanket of air and water va- 
por, and it is still doing a pretty good job when it 
lands in your back yard. 

This is the way a true radiator works. It shoots 
out heat at a prodigious rate of speed, and the 
transfer from the radiating surface to whatever is 
warmed has nothing whatever to do with the tem- 
perature of the air between. This was demonstrated 
in an extremely dramatic fashion by some experi- 
ments which were made over a period of about five 
years at the Pierce Hygiene Laboratory in New 
Haven, Connecticut. 


In the Pierce laboratory there is a booth which is 
made entirely of copper walls, floors, and ceiling. 
Copper, like other metals, reflects radiant heat. 
Hidden in the corners of this booth are electric 
coils which can be switched on to provide almost 
any desired amount of heat. Through a duct open- 
ing into the booth hot or cold air can be passed, 
depending on what the experimenters are trying to 
find out. 

In the course of the experiment in the copper 
room hundreds of people passed through it and 
described their sensations. These sensations, to put 
it mildly, were extraordinary. One series of people, 
for instance, sat around the room and complained 

that they were uncomfortably hot. Yet the ther- 
mometer showed an air temperature of only 50. 
Why were they hot? Because the copper walls were 
radiating a great deal of heat, almost as much as 
the body was losing to the surrounding cool air. 
The net heat loss, therefore, was less than we or- 
dinarily need to remain comfortable. 

The same subjects went into another room where 
the air was above heat-wave temperatures say 
120 and yet these people felt cool. Again it was 
heat radiation that furnished the clue, for the walls 
of this room had been cooled down to the point 
where they could almost have been used for making 
ice cubes, and the hot air was not sufficient in this 
case to counteract the loss by direct radiation from 
the body to the frigid walls. Here the experimenters 
came across in extreme form, to be sure a com- 
mon reason for discomfort in the average home. 

Most everyone has heard of "cold 70" that is, a 
decidedly chilly condition in a room where the ther- 
mometer showed a temperature that should have 
been adequate for comfort. The explanation is not 
to be found in the heating plant but in the reactions 
of the body. 

If you walk into your bedroom and ask how 
many radiators are in the room, and there happen 
to be two units, one under each window, you might 
think the answer would be two. But it isn't two. It 
is three. For you yourself are the third radiator. If 
the bedroom has large, cold window surfaces, or if 
the walls are uninsulated and therefore cold, your 
body will start radiating heat to the cold surfaces. 
And unless the air temperature is extremely high, 
you will lose more heat by radiation than you gain 
from the warm air. Here, we have a condition 
which is quite like that which the Pierce Founda- 
tion scientists set up artificially. If you insulate 
yourself rather than the walls, you will feel warm 
again. That is why, for example, we sleep comfort- 
ably under wool blankets in cold bedrooms. The 


history of clothing and bedding, incidentally, is one 
of those stories of things that were developed in a 
highly unscientific manner to produce technically 
admirable results. One piece of research, also car- 
ried out by the Pierce Foundation, is a particularly 
fascinating example of what clothing does. 

In the course of some investigations of heating 
and its relation to hygiene, one of the Pierce scien- 
tists stumbled across a strange and baffling ques- 
tion: Why, in the hot, dry climate of North Africa, 
did the Arabs go around wrapped in garments 
made up of layer upon layer of fine white wool? 
An Eskimo, he reasoned, might have very good 
reasons for traveling about in this manner. But 
why an Arab? 

The white explained itself very easily. White 
tends to reflect rather than absorb solar radiation; 
which is why we wear light-colored and white 
clothes in the summertime. But how explain the 
wool? Finally, after studying the problem very 
carefully, he came across the answer. The wool 
formed an insulation layer between the air on the 
outside and the air touching the body. Evaporation 
through the pores cooled the skin, and the tempera- 
ture of the skin was therefore actually lower than 
it would have been if exposed to the intensely hot 
air of the desert regions. In other words, while the 
outdoor temperature might be 120 or more in the 
sun, the air between the wool clothing and the body 
might be 90 or less. This strange tale, a by-product 
of impersonal scientific research, has one instruc- 
tive moral: heating cannot be considered solely in 
terms of equipment, since comfort is the object in 
view, and this may be influenced by a wide variety 
of factors, none of them having anything to do 
with furnaces or radiators. 

Where heating coils are used in the floor with per- 
haps supplementary coils imbedded in the walls or 

ceilings, the normal tendency of the body to radiate 
heat to cold surfaces is counteracted because most 
of the surfaces are warm. Some surfaces are warm- 
ed by the heating coils directly behind them. These, 
in turn, radiate heat not only to the body, but also 
to the walls, furniture, and other objects in the 
room. Presently these objects also become warm, 
and they, in turn, become radiators, though at a 
lower temperature than the primary source of heat. 

We are all familiar with changing styles in Ameri- 
can houses. We know about the Colonial dwellings 
of the seventeenth century, and how Colonial was 
given up in favor of a Greek revival in the early 
nineteenth century. This was followed by neo- 
Gothic, Victorian, and all the styles up to the pres- 
ent day. Less familiar, perhaps, are the changes in 
heating styles. From 1920 to 1930, for example, 
steam was the system in vogue. This was refined to 
become "vapor," which was nothing more than a 
steam system operating at less than atmospheric 
pressure; that is, the temperature of the steam in 
the radiators was lower and heating was easier to 
control. Hot water was used, but not very much, 
because it was rather sluggish in operation. When 
this disadvantage was overcome by using circulat- 
ing pumps which forced the hot water through the 
pipes and radiators, the hot-water system began 
to compete with the better types of steam and vapor 

All these systems, however, took something of a 
beating when air conditioning came into vogue. 
All that this "air conditioning" amounted to was a 
redesign of the old hot air furnace, and the addi- 
tion of a fan to push the air around, filters to keep 
dust from coming into the rooms, and a tray of 
water to keep the air from becoming too dry. True 
air-conditioning systems, which involve cooling as 
well as heating, have been confined, in the housing 
field at least, to the most expensive residences, for 
there is nothing cheap about them. 



Now we have radiant heating coming up as a 
contender. What are its chances? We must ask this 
question because, after all, its use is still limited. 
There are probably no more than five or six hundred 
houses in the entire country which are kept warm 
in this manner, and this is a mighty small number 
compared to the twenty-odd million dwellings. 

One big advantage of radiant heating is that 
there are no visible radiators. There are no chunks 
of cast iron or copper under the windows, no grilles 
or registers to disfigure the walls. In other words, 
the system as far as the housewife is concerned is 
completely out of the way, which is a very signifi- 
cant point when you have to do the dusting. Radi- 
ators not only catch the dust but also deposit dirt 
on the walls around them. 

The second advantage is that the floor is warm. 
This means that instead of having to grab the baby 
off the floor, mother can dump him there, because 
it is the most comfortable place in the room, and 
also the safest as regards colds. 

The third and outstanding advantage of radiant 
heating is its evenness. Tests made in a number of 
dwellings in an eastern city showed temperature 
differences between air at the floor and air at the 
ceiling running as high as 20. One room, for ex- 
ample, had an air temperature at the ceiling run- 
ning as high as 80, while the ah- at the floor was 
only 64. Others showed variations less extreme, 
but still with temperature differences of 10 to 15. 
This means expense, since heat losses to the outside 
become very high when air temperatures move up 
to 80 or more, and creates drafts. 

The radiant-heated house shows practically no 
variation between floor and ceiling temperatures 
and, if insulated reasonably well and weather- 
stripped, is almost completely free from drafts. For 
old people and invalids as well as for small chil- 
dren this condition is ideal. 

"All this is very fine," we can hear you say, "but 
what about the cost? Won't any system which 
works such wonders be fabulously expensive?" 

The answer, based on actual experience, is that 
radiant heating installations are comparable in cost 
to high-grade air-conditioning (without cooling) or 
hot-water systems. If the house is designed for radi- 
ant heating that is, if it uses a floor slab laid 
directly on the ground there is a saving in founda- 
tion costs; and this may in some cases make it 
actually cheaper than an old-fashioned heating 

A major worry of most people confronted with 
the idea of radiant heating is that pipes, inextric- 
ably imbedded in rock under three or four inches 
of concrete, could become a terrible headache if 
they ever sprung a leak or broke or froze. These 
troubles, however, have not developed, because 
modern welding techniques and testing methods 
are pretty close to foolproof. 

Is radiant heating, then, the complete answer to 
all our problems? It could be, in the opinion of 
many authorities, if other factors were present. 
One of the factors is house design. This kind of 
heating works at its best in a one-story house, al- 
though it has been successfully applied to those 
with two floors. Its demands in the way of insula- 
tion and double glazing are greater than those pre- 
sented by other types of heating. 

This emphatic recommendation of a kind of 
heating that is not particularly well known as yet 
does not discount by any means the certainty of 
further developments and further improvements in 
the years to come. The basic elements of heating, 
however, will remain precisely what they were in 
the days of the cavemen, for they stem directly and 
inescapably from the reactions of the human body 
to its physical environment. 

Radiant heating by itself does not provide all the 
factors needed to control indoor climate. It does 
nothing about ventilation. It lacks air-condition- 
ing's ability to clean and humidify incoming air. 
These problems, which can be met by separate 
equipment, are discussed in a subsequent chapter. 


There is a widespread notion that today's houses 
have about the most up-to-date kitchens and bath- 
rooms imaginable. This is only partly true. Modern 
designers who have given the cooking and sanitation 
departments a fresh look have come up with all 
sorts of new ideas. One such is the modern version 
of the "old fashioned" service opening shown in 76 
and 77. Besides opening the kitchen to the dining 
space, this puts the percolator and toaster within 
reach of the table, giving the master of the house 
something to do while he is waiting for his eggs. 

A great many variations of the service-opening idea 
are possible, depending on just what you want to 
accomplish. The one used in 79, for example, is 
primarily intended for sliding trays of soiled dishes 
back into the kitchen, while picture 80 shows an 
entirely different approach: a 'two-way cupboard 
into which glassware is placed as it is washed at the 
sink, accessible from the dining room when setting 
the table. All such expedients, however, are simply 
compromises in comparison with the full-fledged 
living-kitchen shown in 81 and 82. In this arrange- 
ment cooking, eating and relaxation areas are 
merged in one attractive space, divided only by a 
waist-high bar. Ideal for servantless living, this 
scheme is both sociable and convenient, saves space 
and construction dollars. 

Another illustration of the living-kitchen scheme, 
this series of semi-divided rooms was exhibited at 
the New York World's Fair. Its carefully studied 
plan provides separate sinks for food preparation 
and dish washing, and a great deal of storage space 
at just the points where it is most useful. Cooking 
and living areas (83 and 85) are divided by open 
shelving for glassware. An important feature of the 
design, basic to the whole living-kitchen idea, is 
the use of rich, attractive materials throughout, so 
as to eliminate the aseptic atmosphere ordinarily 
associated with the separate kitchen. Natural wood 
cabinets, dark linoleum work surfaces, monel metal 
sinks and generous use of exposed brickwork all 
contribute to making the space pleasant to live in 
as well as work in, and equally attractive throughout. 

These designs come as close to the "dream house" 
category as anything you will find in this book. 
Views 93 and 94 show a full size model of an ideal 
kitchen developed by a glass manufacturer to stimu- 
late use of his product and including redesigned, and 
so far unobtainable equipment. The one-piece, 
manufactured kitchen shown in 95, which has a 
drawer refrigerator instead of the usual type is 
actually in production but not yet in wide use. Pic- 
tures 96 and 97 show another one-piece unit, with 
bath and kitchen fixtures on opposite sides, from a 
much-publicized prefabricated house that is no 
longer manufactured. The basic idea, however, is 
being applied elsewhere. 



While these bathrooms are all of the luxury type, 
the design-approach they represent can be applied 
as easily to the modest house as to the mansion. 
Views 1 04 and 1 05 show a combination bath- 
dressing room with a continuous counter fitted 
with drawers for clothing and finished in wood 
veneers and plastic. The room shown in I 06 and 
I 07 has walls of structural glass, and an angle tub 
with a broad rim which serves as a seat. The trans- 
lucent top of the dressing table .is lit from below, 
providing illumination for the lower part of the face. 
View I 08 shows a bath finished in natural wood 
and marble, and equipped with a counter lavatory 
very similar to those used in Victorian houses. Such 
materials are not much more expensive than the 
ones ordinarily employed in bathrooms, and are 
considerably more attractive. 


I 12 

Here are five versions of the counter lavatory, 
worked out in different materials and to fit 
various planning ideas. View I 09 shows a re- 
cessed unit set in the wall of a bedroom and 
concealed, when not in use, by a swinging door. 
The counter in I 09 is of varnished mahogany, 
and the fluted apron, made of half-round mold- 
ings, forms a cupboard for towels. Valves are 
controlled by foot pedals. View I I I shows an 
ingenious arrangement of shelving attached to 
the cupboard doors, view I I 2 a double lavatory, 
in marble, for a family bath. The unit shown in 
I I 3 is suitable for factory production, and shows 
how the counter-lavatory idea might be applied 
to a stock fixture. This one is located in- the ante- 
room of a divided bath, with doors on either 
side leading to compartments for the tub and 
water closet. 

9 * 



WHAT is A bathroom? 

"A bathroom," someone replies, "is a room con- 
taining a water closet, a lavatory, a tub, and maybe 
a shower." 

How big is a bathroom? 

"A bathroom," continues our informant, "is 
about five and a half feet wide by six feet long." 

Why is it that size? 

"That's easy," we are told. "These dimensions 
are about the smallest that will take the three re- 
quired fixtures." 

Oh! So the bathroom was designed for the fix- 
tures. What about the people? 
"I guess the builder didn't think about them." 
That is what is wrong with bathrooms. 

Now let's try again. What is a bathroom? 

In the first place, it isn't necessarily a room at all. 
When plumbing was first installed in city houses, it 
went into the hall bedroom, which was about the 

only available place. In the seventy-odd years that 
followed, the bath has stayed the same old hall 
bedroom, slightly streamlined. 

The functions served by the bathroom require 
plumbing fixtures, maneuvering space, counter 
area, good lighting, and adequate storage. For one 
person, or possibly two, there is no reason why 
these functions should not be performed in a single 
room. But for a family there are good reasons why 
they should not. 

Some time ago one of us had the job of designing 
a very elaborate and expensive town house in New 
York City. The top floor was to be the owner's 
suite, with one large bedroom for himself bath 
adjoining, of course and across the hall another 
large bedroom, also with bath, to be used as a 
guest room. As the plans progressed the owner de- 
cided that somewhere on this floor he needed a 
third room which could be used part of the time as 
an office in the home, part of the time as a second 
guest room. This meant chopping one bedroom in 
half and somehow providing, in a now restricted 
area, bath facilities for not one bedroom but 

This might have been solved, as it has been solved 
so frequently, by putting a bath between the two 
rooms. But it turned out to be impossible. If we 
had done this, there would have been practically 



no space left for beds in the sleeping rooms on 
either side. 

The plan as it finally worked out is not a bath- 
room at all, but a string of separate compartments. 
Each bedroom has a separate lavatory with laundry 
hamper below the basin, installed in a shallow 
closet. The water closet has its own compartment 
with a door from each room. And, finally, there is 
a third space with a shower, also accessible from 
both rooms. 

This system of breaking down the bathroom 
into its component elements can be worked with a 
great many variations. Where there are a number 
of bedrooms on one floor, for example, and there 
is no possibility of providing a bath for each room, 
the scheme of having a lavatory in each bedroom 
will work wonders in taking the pressure off the 
bathroom. It is possible to go to the other extreme, 
where space and funds are available, and convert 
the bath into a bath-dressing room whose ameni- 
ties are vastly superior to those of the usual re- 
stricted space. But the main advantage of consid- 
ering the bath not as a fixed room of a standard 
type is that it frees planning all through the sleep- 
ing area, can increase convenience at no increase 
in cost, and generally provides that flexibility so 
important in the house planned for living today. 

The most spectacular example of the bath-in-com- 
partments yet produced is a unit designed by 
Morris Ketchum, Jr. and Jedd Reisner for Life and 
The Architectural Forum. Created to meet the 
needs of a whole family, it is ingenious in plan and 
attractive in appearance. 

The largest space in the bath is taken up by a 
lavatory and a mirrored storage compartment. The 
lavatory has foot controls for the faucet, a broad 
counter, and a generous cupboard below. Above is 
a medicine cabinet, in which the shelves are at- 
tached to the swinging mirrors. 

Each of the other two fixtures which make up 
the bathroom has its own compartment and its 
own door, and the tub-shower compartment is suf- 
ficiently large for dressing as well as bathing. Now 
let's consider this bath as it would work in the 
average home. 

Whoever got up first might dash into the shower 
compartment, leaving the lavatory and water 
closet both free and private. If there were only one 
bath in the house, father might be shaving while 
mother was dressing and while the children were 
using the bathtub. 

The Ketchum-Reisner bath has one serious dis- 
advantage: it takes up a square space between 
three and four times as large as the minimum bath- 
room. The "three-passenger" principle, however, 
can be applied in less space and other shapes. It 
will work very well, for example, in a space about 
five and a half feet deep and fifteen feet long. In 
the typical modern house plan, which is long and 
rather narrow, such a shape fits very conveniently 
between a corridor and the north wall, leaving the 


southern exposure for the bedrooms. All compart- 
ments, in this variant of the family bath, get out- 
side light. 

To develop the idea a little further, let us assume 
that in addition to some such compartmentalized 
arrangement, two of the three bedrooms have 
built-in washbasins. These units, as we have al- 
ready seen, can be compact, inconspicuous, and 
efficient. A space eighteen inches by thirty inches 
closed off by a door provides the needed facilities 
not only for washing, makeup, and shaving, but 
also for soiled linen. If these two built-in lavatories 
existed in addition to the bath, we would have a 
house where, without undue expense for plumb- 
ing, the various members of the family would 
never get in each other's way and almost all of the 
luxury of individual bathrooms could be enjoyed. 
The bedroom lavatory is an item that could, and 
certainly should be, prefabricated. It should be 
possible, and perhaps it will be one of these days, 
to wander down to the local plumbing supply 
place and pick out one or two models which would 
be delivered complete with lights, laundry hamper, 
shelves, door, and so on. An ingenious manufac- 
turer could work wonders with this unit. He could 
take a leaf out of the book of the Pullman car de- 
signers, for example. The familiar type of wash- 
basin in sleeping cars that tilts up to become part 
of a wall cabinet is by no means beyond the capac- 
ity of a plumbing fixture manufacturer, and its 
advantage would be that the whole unit could then 
be made so thin that it would literally fit within the 
thickness of an oversized wall. Not even closet 
space would be required for its installation. 


One of the most frequent complaints about the 
modern lavatory is that no matter where you put 


the handbrush, hairbrush, toothbrush, or soap, it 
usually manages to slide down into the bowl. 

There is a very simple way to eliminate this dif- 
ficulty. It should be familiar to most of us, because 
the solution has been used in the kitchen for years. 
It consists of a flat-rimmed bowl set into a counter 
covered with rubber, linoleum, or some other re- 
silient material. 

This type of lavatory installation, of which a 
great many excellent examples can be found, must 
be considered in the planning, for the lavatory 
having such a counter must be given elbowroom 
and more. To be sure, this is another factor which 
tends to make bathroom space larger, but it is 
worth the extra space. The space underneath the 
counter can be used for shallow drawers, linen 
hamper, towel storage, and other items, such as 
extra soap, which should be kept in the bathroom. 
Another source of occasional irritation, although 
a very minor one, is the necessity of having to 
twist faucets while one's hands are covered with 
slippery soap. This isn't a very serious matter, but 
there are devices on the market which will elimi- 
nate the faucets entirely if for any reason you 
would like to do so. These gadgets, rarely seen in 
houses, are regularly supplied to hospitals and 
other institutions where it is not only inconvenient 
for people to handle faucets but dangerous, since 
it might involve transmission of germs. There are 
two types: knee-operated and foot-operated. The 
latter sit on the floor and have pedals for hot and 
cold water. 

Foot controls, like the double lavatories some- 
times put into master bathrooms, are definitely in 
the luxury class, but fortunately there are people 
in this country who have the good sense to deny 
themselves necessities so they can enjoy luxuries. 
Also in the class of luxury items is instantaneous 
circulating hot water, which involves the creation 
of a loop in the hot water supply line so that 
whether or not the hot water is being used, it is 



continuously circulating, though very slowly, 
through the pipes. This means that the moment 
the water is turned on, it runs hot. Most inexpen- 
sive of all the luxuries, and most satisfying, is an 
oversized supply pipe for the tub. If you have ever 
waited twenty minutes for the tub to fill up, the 
virtues of this item need no description. 

The infra-red lamp is a gadget that has a great 
future in the American home once people become 
aware of its remarkable properties. Automobile 
and refrigerator manufacturers have used infra-red 
lamps for years in drying tunnels where car bodies 
and other freshly painted parts move through on 
conveyor belts. In the bathroom three or four dol- 
lars' worth of infra-red lamps could work wonders. 
That familiar chill when one steps out of the 
shower could be eliminated entirely by switching 
on one or two of these lamps, located in incon- 
spicuous sockets on a wall or even in the ceiling. 
To produce a comparable feeling of well-being 
with conventional heating equipment, it would 
probably be necessary to heat the bathroom up to 
about ninety degrees, which of course would make 
it intolerable at all other times. 


There is an entire chapter on storage which deals 
with the general problems of where to keep things. 
The special problems of the bathroom, however, 
are worth detailed discussion. The ideal bathroom 
whether it's one room or in compartments- 
would have one feature on which agreement would 
certainly be unanimous. It would have room for 
all the towels ever used in it in other words, it 
would have its own linen closet. It would have 
ample cupboards for the soap, toilet paper, infre- 
quently used medicines, hot-water bottles, eyecups, 
and the host of miscellaneous items which some- 
how seem to get put away in two or three different 
closets in various parts of the house. Everything 
needed in the bathroom would be in the bathroom, 

and there would be no need to race through chilly 
halls looking for things. 


The most inexpensive and common expedient, of 
course, is to combine the shower and the tub in the 
same fixture. Where this is done, it is done rather 
badly, as a rule. Almost always there is a towel 
rack over the tub so that towels have to be re- 
moved if the shower is used. The curtain rod is a 
rather unattractive element in the room, and the 
curtains themselves are a nuisance. Furthermore, 
there is the inconvenience and danger of dancing 
around under an icy spray in anything as slippery 
and restricted as the average bathtub. The best so- 
lution, therefore, would be to separate these two 
items, even though additional space is required. 

A stall shower does not need tile walls and 
chromium-plated trimming on a plate-glass door, 
desirable as these may be. It can be a space the 
size of a closet with walls made out of inexpensive 
asbestos sheets, or waterproof plywood covered 
with a good varnish. It can be one of the inex- 
pensive prefabricated metal stalls which have been 
on the market for some years. The materials in the 
stall shower will range, therefore, from very cheap 
to very costly, and, whatever your budget, if you 
can afford a house you can probably afford one or 
another kind of shower installation. 

In planning, two points should be considered 
carefully. A shower thirty inches square is usable 
but not very pleasant. If you can possibly do it, 
make it about four feet long by two and a hah or 
three feet wide. This extra space will not make 
much difference in the size of the house, and it will 
turn a nasty little slot into a really luxurious place 
for bathing. 


We have already noted a certain dissatisfaction 
with the exceedingly unimaginative approach to 


the planning of the sanitary facilities in the average 
bathroom. Equally striking to any architect con- 
cerned with building better houses is the really re- 
markable conventionality of the approach to the 

design of this room. The windows are usually small 
in spite of the fact that the bathroom needs as 
much light as any other room and is entitled to 
just as good a view. And this tiny window, more- 
over, which invariably proclaims the location of 
the bath to the passer-by, is frequently set over the 
tub, where it is hard to reach, or over the water 
closet, where it produces a draft. It is true that pri- 
vacy in this room is considered essential by the 
average homeowner, but there are many ways of 
getting privacy besides cutting down the window 
to the size of a porthole. One, if the view is no 
good, is to use translucent glass. Another is to keep 
the window high but at the same time to make it 
broad. Such a window extending from wall to wall 
and from the ceiling down to five feet above the 
floor will give ample privacy under almost any con- 
dition and at the same time transmit a great deal 
of useful light. 

The attitude toward materials until now has been 
as restricted as the treatment of windows. Tile is 
run from the floor up to average elbow height, 
with painted plaster above. If the builder is very 
lavish, maybe the tile goes to the ceiling. But tile, 
for all its unquestioned merits, is not the only ma- 

terial suitable for use in a bathroom. In a number 
of bathrooms which have been built in California 
houses redwood was used. Redwood, as you may 
know, like cedar and cypress, is filled with natural 
oils which give it a great advantage if it is located 
where it gets wet occasionally. 

If the idea of a wood-paneled bathroom sounds 
strange to you, think about it a little while, and 
then see if it still sounds strange. There is no reason 
why the bathroom, just because it contains a few 
plumbing fixtures, should look like an operating- 
room on a battleship. If you like the idea of wood 
but don't want to use it in the form of planks, there 
is waterproof plywood. This material, made up of 
layers of veneer glued together with waterproof 
plastics, has been used very successfully on torpedo 
boats and airplanes. We can assure you, therefore, 
that you need have no qualms about its durability 
in your future bathroom. 

Equally suitable are the flexible sheet materials, 
such as rubber and linoleum, which, as mentioned 
elsewhere, have desirable sound-deadening proper- 
ties. They have the further advantage of bending 
around corners with the greatest of ease, so that a 
room sheathed with one of these finishes could 
have all round corners and be a lot easier to take 
care of. For that matter, round corners have long 
been used in tile baths and can be made of wood 
and metal as well. 


The critical point in lighting the bathroom cen- 
ters on the lavatory. Here is the shaving mirror, 
and here, too, unless there is a separate dressing 
table, is where noses are powdered. Despite the 
fact that there are cabinets on the market which 
have built-in illumination and fixtures which will 
throw a great deal of light directly on the face, few 
people are thoroughly satisfied with the result. In 
a theater dressing-room, where good makeup is of 
vital importance, you will find that the mirror over 



the dressing counter is completely surrounded 
with a ring of electric light bulbs. This may not be 
very pleasant, because the heat and glare from the 
brightly glowing bulbs are intense. But the idea is 
good, for the ring of lights gives even, shadowless 
illumination from above, from the sides, and, most 
important for shaving, from below. 

Something of this kind has to be developed for 
the home lavatory, and it need not be unduly com- 
plicated. The simplest method, and the cheapest, 
involves the use of a single light over the mirror, 
plus the use of the white basin below as a reflector. 
Most basins are much too low for comfortable use, 
and if the lavatory were raised, its efficacy as a re- 
flector would be increased. The single light need 
not be an incandescent bulb; it could perfectly well 
be a fluorescent tube. Still better would be the addi- 
tion of two other lights on each side of the cabinet. 
Tube lights are much better in this location than 
incandescent bulbs, because the light would be 
spread over a bigger surface, and consequently 
there would be less discomfort from glare. What 
glare there is can be reduced further by the use of 
frosted glass or by hiding the bulbs and using 
curved reflectors of aluminum or stainless steel to 
direct the light to the face. An ideal solution, fol- 
lowing the theater dressing-room example, would 
be to complete the ring and provide a light source 
from below as well. If you have an ingenious archi- 
tect you will find that this solution is far from im- 
possible. Perhaps some manufacturer will one day 
bring out such a unit. To date, however, it has not 
appeared, and if you want one it will have to be 
put together specially. 

A few years back a demonstration house was 
built in New York City. It had an inside bath and 
therefore required full-time artificial lighting and 
ventilation. Instead of tacking up lights on the wall 
here and there, the architect, Edward Stone, made 
the entire ceiling a lighting fixture. The ceiling con- 
sisted of a grid of light wood bars about three 
inches deep, which made it look a little like an egg 

crate. Above this there was a layer of frosted glass, 
and in the space above that were fluorescent tube 
lights. The grid directed all illumination down- 
ward, and the natural wood color softened and 
warmed the light, thus producing a really wonder- 
ful effect. In addition, there was local illumination 
on the lavatory mirror. 


In a single house it has usually been taken for 
granted that the bath will be located on an outside 
wall so that it will have its own window for day- 
light and ventilation. In big city apartment houses 
and particularly in large hotels, the reverse gener- 
ally holds true, for land is so valuable and space 
so restricted that baths have to be buried in the 
core of the building to save valuable outside wall 

Most people contemplating the building of a new 
house would probably reject the suggestion that 
they put one or more inside bathrooms in the plan, 
on the ground that such a bath is unpleasant to use 
and unhygienic. Nevertheless, they will think noth- 
ing of going to an expensive, up-to-date hotel 
where they will use the artificially lighted and ven- 
tilated inside bathroom without the slightest dis- 
comfort. In fact, they might even enjoy the unpre- 
cedented degree of privacy which this type of room 

When approaching the question of the inside 
bath, it is necessary, therefore, to distinguish be- 
tween facts and prejudices, and between the real 
advantages and the real disadvantages of such an 
arrangement. It is true that in the great majority 
of houses there is frequently no particularly good 
reason why bathrooms should be removed from 
outside walls. There is usually all the perimeter 
needed for all of the rooms, and giving up ten or 
fifteen feet of exterior wall space for bathrooms 
does not create any shortage of such space. How- 
ever, there are occasions when, by placing the 
bathroom within the core of the house, a consider- 


able increase in planning flexibility can be achieved. 
This is particularly true when the bathroom is 
changed from its conventional form into a related 
series of compartments where the various func- 
tions are divided to give added usability. 

There is another point about the inside bath- 
room that must be considered in evaluating its de- 
sirability, and that is, that in a one-story house or 
on the top floor, the inside bath can also be natur- 
ally lighted and ventilated by using clerestory win- 
dows or skylights. During the period of emergency 
war building a great many housing projects of a 
temporary nature built in various parts of the 
country used precisely this scheme. According to 
the few tenant surveys that were made, these bath- 
rooms were well liked. Privacy was considered one 
advantage, while the added wall space, thanks to 
the elimination of the window, was another. 

But war housing was not the first example of 
such planning in this country. Decades ago Frank 
Lloyd Wright, who seems to have had almost every 
good idea about houses some twenty years before 
anyone else, was building bathrooms and kitchens 
where the walls extended well above the roof so 
that light could be brought in from the sides. 
Wright has already emphasized the virtues of this 
scheme, not only for the reasons given above, but 
because, as he pointed out, kitchens with extra 
high ceilings and raised windows function in the 
same way as the large chimney that is, general 
movement of air through the house would be set 
up, the high windows furnishing the outlet for the 
air. In a kitchen of this kind the problem of cook- 
ing odors is well on the way to solution, because 
air currents would be coming into the kitchen and 
passing out directly, carrying the odors with them. 
The same applies to the bathroom. 

This is what The Architectural Forum has written 
about the inside bathroom : "One reason why inside 
bathrooms work better than those on outside walls 
is that they are usually better ventilated. Artificial 
ventilation insures a constant flow of air in one 

direction that is, from other rooms into the bath, 
where objectionable odors are drawn off which 
otherwise might be distributed throughout the 
apartment. Mechanical ventilation establishes fixed 
constant ventilation not only of the bath, but cross- 
ventilation of other rooms. Because air is drawn 
from the rest of the apartment, the bathroom tem- 
perature remains fairly constant. 

"Secondly, this ventilation works all the year 
round, whereas bathroom windows are frequently 
closed almost all winter. One cold blast of air is 
enough to keep the window closed for the re^ 
mainder of a day, if not the season. Neither are 
city dwellers likely to leave a bathroom window 
open for long and let the soot sift in. 

"The equipment in the inside bath may be eco- 
nomically arranged on one wall without blocking 
access to a window, as is often the case with the 
outside bath. This has been the cause of serious 
accidents, as the tenant may easily slip on a wet 
floor or tub when reaching over or stepping into 
the tub to open the window. Light from the small 
window is generally inadequate for either shaving 
or making up, and for this reason artificial light is 

Use or rejection of the inside bath idea is a mat- 
ter of personal taste. As far as that goes, so is the 
use of bath-in-compartments. What we have tried 
to show, and what is more important than the few 
new ideas discussed, is that the kind of thinking 
that produced the standard minimum bathroom is 
outdated, that an unprejudiced approach to one's 
living requirements can produce an astonishing va- 
riety of new and interesting solutions. Only a few 
years ago it was generally felt that the bathroom 
problem had been completely solved that arrang- 
ing three fixtures in a small area left little or no 
room for variations. We have seen that this is not 
the case. And there is a very good reason why it is 
the modem architect who has contributed the 
changes. It is because he forgets about the fixtures 
and remembers that he is designing for people. 





A COUPLE OF weeks ago we helped a friend paint 
his kitchen. It had been a white kitchen to start 
with, and was getting a new coat of the same color. 
Except that it wasn't the same color at all. Wher- 
ever the new white went on the walls, the old white 
next to it suddenly turned a muddy yellow gray by 
contrast. Even the enameled electric clock, which 
had been faithfully scraped every month or two, 
seemed a rather dingy beige once the new paint sur- 
rounded it, and not the gleaming white everyone 
had imagined it to be. 

This kitchen is in no way particularly remark- 
able. It isn't in the city, where soot discolors every- 
thing in sight, and it has been taken care of as well 
as a room could be. Yet after less than two years a 
high quality white paint was transformed into 
something just this side of mud. 

What this leads up to is the observation that the 
activities in certain rooms produce their own "cli- 
mate." The average kitchen, for example, is a Pitts- 
burgh in miniature, where minute particles of soot 
from the cooking fire, burned food, and plain ordi- 
nary everyday grease get into the atmosphere and 
wander around the kitchen, and the adjacent 
rooms, too, until finally they land on the walls or 
furniture. In fact, laboratory analysis has disclosed 
that some of the fish mother fries on the kitchen 

stove is likely to condense on an upstairs window- 
pane within a matter of minutes. In the properly 
designed house this is not to be tolerated. Such a 
condition is dirty and it is wasteful. The house- 
holder should have the power to control the climate 
produced inside the rooms of his house. 

The concern of this chapter is with the creation 
of the best possible physical environment within 
the house. Heating takes care of the elementary 
problem of keeping warm. It stops short, however, 
of what is technically feasible at the present time 
and will probably be universal practice in the near 
future. As good a place as can be found for an ap- 
proach to this question of climate is the kitchen. 
Of all the rooms in the house it is the worst of- 
fender in producing unpleasant climate. And it is 
the worst offender because of two essential pieces 
of equipment the range and the refrigerator. 
What the range does has already been described. 
The role of the refrigerator is probably less 

A refrigerator makes things cold by extracting 
heat from them. The heat has to. go some place, and 
generally it goes right into the kitchen. During the 
summer this is particularly objectionable. 

A clear course of action is indicated for whoever 
is planning the kitchen in terms of climate as well 


as mechanical efficiency. There should be a hood, 
or at least some kind of collecting duct, over both 
stove and refrigerator to get the dirt and the un- 
wanted heat out of the kitchen as quickly and as 
directly as possible. 

Hotels and restaurants have been doing this for 
years by the use of exhaust fans. For the home 
there is an additional refinement that should be 
considered. If the exhaust fan were hooked up to a 
thermostatic control located in the duct or hood, 
the fan would go on automatically whenever the 
refrigerator exhaust or cooking raised the tempera- 
ture a few degrees. This isn't suggested because of 
a feeling that the housewife is getting soft and is 
unable even to push buttons any more, but simply 
because people do forget things, and the remem- 
bering might just as well be left to an automatic 

The next offender in order of importance is the 
bathroom. One advantage A of the inside bathroom, 

already noted, is that it has year-round ventilation, 
which is more than can be said for the average out- 
side bathroom. People hesitate, quite understand- 
ably, to open bathroom windows in cold weather, 
because the room is used intermittently all day and 
evening, and, once chilled, takes time to warm up 
again. A practical way to get around this situation 
is to install some kind of artificial ventilation and 
leave the window closed. Some architects have gone 
so far as to install sheets of fixed glass, thus relying 
on the window only for light, and an exhaust fan 
to provide for a change of air. If by any chance 
the bathroom is located next to the kitchen, pos- 
sibly the kitchen fan could be made to do double 

If we stop and consider the climate question for 
a moment, we find that we now have the beginnings 
of a rudimentary system of artificial ventilation 
which is quite independent of the heating plant. 
This ventilating arrangement of fixed glass for 
light and exhaust fan for change of air applies to 

more than the bathroom and kitchen, because once 
it is in operation, new air has to come from some- 
where, and this somewhere has to be the other 
rooms in the house. Thus a general movement of 
air is set up all over the house towards these two 
rooms. This is far better, of course, than having the 
air come from them. 

A device that has been gaining popularity during 
the past few years is the so-called attic fan. It has 
been adopted with particular enthusiasm in the 
Southwest, and also wherever else the summers get 
uncomfortably hot. One reason for attic fans is 
that houses are badly designed. The average 
pitched-roof house has either an attic or an air 
space. This air space is not vented to the out-of- 
doors, with the result that in summer the air 
trapped under the roof gets so hot that the ceilings 
below it are turned literally into radiators. It is 
a simple matter to design a house so that air under 
the roof can be vented as it becomes hot. Farmers 
have been doing this in their barns and chicken- 
houses for generations. But because the attics in 
conventional dwellings have been designed as traps 
for super-heated air, people have to install these 
fans to get rid of it. This does not mean that the 
exhaust fan is a useless apparatus but that it has 
been misused. Its function should not be to cool the 
attic, but to control the climate of the whole house. 
Turned on at night, it brings in the cool outside air, 
and if the air is dry enough, the result is a refresh- 
ing breeze. But the fan doesn't have to be located 
in the attic, although this is a perfectly good place 
for it. It could be used to push air into the house as 
well as to pull it out, and where summers are very 
humid it could be used in conjunction with a de- 
humidifying system. 

Dehumidifiers are fairly simple pieces of equip- 
ment that take moisture out of the air. The com- 
monest type uses a material known as silica gel, 
which is highly moisture-absorbent. If this silica 
gel is placed in a chamber through which the air 



supply for the house passes, it will take moisture 
out of the air until it becomes so saturated that it 
can't absorb any more. At this point the equipment 
provides for removal of the saturated material, 
which is then heated, usually over a gas flame, until 
all the moisture has been driven off, and it is then 
re-used. In most installations the setup consists of 
a slowly revolving drum, so constructed that part 
absorbs moisture and part gets rid of it an ar- 
rangement which provides continuous service. 

A combination of the items mentioned so far 
exhaust fans for kitchens and bathrooms, an attic 
fan, and a dehumidifier if its use should be desir- 
able would establish a pretty high level of com- 
fort in the average house if it were installed in con- 
junction with a first-class heating system. The pre- 
cise manner in which home ventilation would be 
handled varies not only with the prevailing summer 
climate but also with the location of the house. If 
it is in a city or an industrial neighborhood, the 
attic fan becomes something of a liability, because 
the air which is pulled in through the windows is 
laden with dirt, and cleaning becomes more of a 
problem than it was before. In such cases the fan 
should probably be installed in the basement, if 
there is one, or in a ground-floor utility room, and 
some type of filter should be used to take the soot 
out of the air before it hits the fan. Incidentally, 
there is one rule about the fan itself that should be 
observed. The bigger it is, the quieter it will be in 
operation, because to move a given quantity of air 
through the house a big fan will be operated more 
slowly than a small one. Ventilating fans up to four 
feet in diameter, and still larger ones, have been 
installed in houses. 


At this point one might well ask, "Why not shoot 
the works and add cooling?" At the present mo- 
ment there are several reasons why this is not as 

good an idea as it sounds. For one thing, a venti- 
lating system requires no ducts; and by the simple 
expedient of leaving doors and windows open or 
closed, the flow of air can be directed as desired. 
With a cooling system, this is not quite as feasible. 
Ducts are needed, and large ones a fact that im- 
mediately complicates and raises the cost of instal- 
lation. Added to this is the fact that residential air- 
cooling is still very definitely in the luxury cate- 
gory. If there is a compressor which requires an 
electric motor, the motor is generally a big one and 
costs a lot to run. Another reason is that for houses 
in most parts of the United States ventilation 
comes pretty close to doing the job that is needed 
during the summer months. It is only in the hot and 
humid central southern regions that air-cooling is 
desirable in spite of its relatively high cost. 

Shortly before the outbreak of World War II, 
one manufacturer brought out a gas unit designed 
to handle both heating and cooling in one pack- 
age. It was fairly expensive, but by no means un- 
reasonably so when compared to any other good 
installation. The gas flame worked exactly as it 
does in the gas refrigerator, and tests on actual in- 
stallations showed that while the cost of summer 
cooling was fairly high, it was by no means beyond 
the reach of the middle-class budget. Certainly in 
the regions where natural gas is cheap and plenti- 
ful, units of this type should be highly successful. 
Possibly with refinements they will become so effi- 
cient and inexpensive that they will be suitable for 
installation in all but the cheapest houses. At the 
moment, however, this is not the case. 

One manufacturer interested in the field of sum- 
mer air conditioning for houses said that before a 
cooling system could be sold the owner would have 
to buy awnings. In the most recent houses where 
the roof design has been worked out to let the sun 
in during the winter and keep it out in summer, the 
awnings would not be required. But the point was 
well taken. Engineers setting up a cooling system 

design it with what they call the heat load in mind 
that is, they find out how much heat comes into 
the house, which, in turn, tells them what machin- 
ery will be required to get it out again. The smart 
thing to do, obviously, is not to let it get in, which 
can be accomplished by proper design, the use of 
reflective insulation, self-ventilating roofs similar 
to those installed on barns, and the judicious use of 

This last should not be disregarded, because it 
can be immensely effective. A wall thickly covered 
with ivy, for example, will never get hot on the in- 
side, no matter how long the sun shines on it, for 
the green leaves absorb some of the heat and reflect 
some, while the pattern of the foliage permits a 
free passage of air currents up the face of the house 
so that the wall behind never has a chance to get 
warmed up. 

It is conceivable indeed, quite probable that 


all houses will be completely air-conditioned the 
year round at some future date. At the moment, 
however, there is not much point in considering it 
unless there is a generous budget established to 
cover not only the first cost of the equipment but 
its use and maintenance as well. 

Good climate is something that can be defined 
rather simply. It involves having clean air at the 
proper temperature summer and winter, the hu- 
midity being kept fairly well under control at all 
times. For the average house in this country a good 
ventilating system, coupled with a radiant heating 
installation and the special handling of kitchens 
and bathrooms already discussed, will come pretty 
close to providing optimum living conditions. Dur- 
ing the next few years, at any rate, that extra 
equipment which would provide scientific perfec- 
tion of interior climate will cost more than most of 
us are willing to pay. 




OF ALL THE rooms in the house the bedroom has 
changed least. It would almost be accurate to say 
that the only essential difference between the sleep- 
ing chamber of today and one of the post-Civil 
War period is the absence of the chamber pot. Be- 
cause of the simplicity of the activities involved, 
there has been little incentive to change the equip- 
ment. Beds and mattresses have been improved 
since the days when people threw a blanket over a 
pile of straw in a corner. And the modern closet 
with automatic door switches and special hanging 
gadgets is easier to use than the antique wooden 
wardrobe. But beds are still horizontal chunks that 
take up most of the floor space and have to be 
made and unmade periodically. Closets, while built 
in and improved somewhat, still show a strong re- 
semblance to old-fashioned clothes cupboards. 

This does not mean that when the bedroom is 
planned there is nothing to do about it. Tremen- 
dous changes are about to take place which will 
influence most of our sleeping habits; but even 
without these proposed innovations, some of 
which verge on the fantastic, there is plenty to be 
done in bringing the bedroom, as a space, up to the 
standard of quality displayed by more highly de- 
veloped sections of the house. 

Let us take time out and look at the bedroom, 
not as a room with some standard furniture in it, 
but as the area in which a great variety of activities 
takes place. People read in their bedrooms, they 
dress there, occasionally eat there, frequently 

smoke, and sometimes write; they may listen to 
the radio, and they certainly make love. 

In a bedroom there is also the question of sleep, 
which has been studied very intensively by a num- 
ber of research institutes, and here proper design 
can, but usually does not, play an important part. 
The factors having an effect on sleep are noise, 
whether from within the room or from outside, 
light, heat, and air. Most people, we strongly sus- 
pect, do not sleep particularly well, and the reason 
for this conjecture is that all of us seem to be able 
to recall with extraordinary clarity some occasion 
when we slept especially well. Such an occasion 
might have been a night in a cabin in a pine woods, 
where the temperature and quality of the air were 
the essential factors. City dwellers react very 
strongly to their first night in the country because 
of the absence of familiar noises, of which they be- 
come conscious only when the source has been re- 

These factors, the scientists tell us, are exceed- 
ingly complex, but for our purposes it should be 
possible to simplify them. The quieter the room, 
apparently, the more peacefully one sleeps. This 
has a bearing on design, because rooms can be 
made quiet. Maximum physical comfort seems to 
exist when the body is warm and the air a little on 
the cool side. Typical disturbances such as streaks 
of light from the nearest lamppost, a reading light 
in the adjacent bed, or headlights from passing 
cars, also tend to interfere with sleep. These, too, 


can be controlled. Thus we see that there are two 
approaches to planning a bedroom one based on 
the creation of the qualities which induce sound 
sleep, the other based on the other activities carried 
on there. 


Some years ago a book was published in Paris by 
a Swiss architect named LeCorbusier. LeCorbusier 
was interested in developing entirely new standards 
for house design, and in the course of his provoca- 
tive discussion he came to the subject of the bed- 

No one could have been more emphatic: there 
should be only one thing in the bedroom, said he, 
and that was the bed. The idea of dressing in the 
same space was completely revolting aesthetically 
and undesirable hygienically. LeCorbusier's fellow 
citizens were shocked by his attack on what was 
universally considered a good arrangement. 

Quite recently a woman active in public life de- 
scribed to some of her friends the kind of bedroom 
she would like to have. Nothing could have been 
more remote from LeCorbusier's ideal of the mon- 
astic sleeping chamber, but it made perfectly good 
sense none the less. The main feature of this bed- 
room was to be a remarkable motorized bed. At- 
tached to the bed was a kind of dashboard with 
about a dozen buttons on it : one operated a writing 
desk, built into the wall, which would swing into 
position when wanted; another button worked a 
carefully designed reading light; a third took care 
of opening and closing the windows; a fourth oper- 
ated the blinds; a fifth brought a small refrigerated 
compartment within reach; and others took care of 
a radio, record-player, maid, telephone, and so on. 

There are few of us who spend this much time 
in our beds, and there are even fewer who could 
afford the elaborate sets of motors and controls 

required. Nevertheless, the example does serve to 
define clearly the range of design possibilities, 
which in turn represent varying tastes and living 

From the foregoing we see that a bedroom can be 
a great many things. It can be a second living- 
room, giving members of the family needed pri- 
vacy for conversation, reading, or study. Or it can 
be a sleeping chamber which also includes dressing 
facilities. And, finally, it can be nothing more than 
a sleeping compartment containing only the beds 
and the necessary controls for ventilation, light, 
sound, and the rest. 

Fortunately, there is nobody who can tell you 
which of these kinds of rooms is the best kind. 
When a house is planned, a choice will be made 
only on the basis of how one prefers to live. Even 
this preference, however, will not be completely 
free, because the budget at some point will enter 
the picture. Space in a house is comparatively 
cheap to build that is, empty space costs less than 
subdivided space. This means that if a given area is 
to be divided into a dressing-room and a sleeping 
chamber, it will cost more than a single room in 
which both activities are taken care of. Neverthe- 
less, space does cost something, and the bed-living 
room, which has to be large, will be more expensive 
than the old-style bed-dressing room. 

The sleeping-compartment with separate dress- 
ing-room scheme, for example, has one tremen- 
dous advantage: the dressing space can be kept 
warm even if the windows in the sleeping unit are 
left open all night. There is also the matter of 
quiet, since a space containing only one or two 
beds can be very satisfactorily soundproofed at no 
great expense. The bed-living room scheme, on the 
other hand, offers the pleasant prospect of sleeping 
in a room of really generous size with the possibil- 
ity of a very agreeable, casual kind of existence 
where one can work or talk without the inconven- 
ience of getting up and going downstairs. Once the 


I 17 



An ancient and honorable way to provide for beds 
is to place them in an alcove (Thomas Jefferson, one 
of the first modern architects, kept his in one which 
served as a passage between two rooms, and pulled 
it up to the ceiling during the day). Views I 1 7 and 
I 18 show two up-to-the-minute versions of the 
alcove scheme, which is applicable either to the bed- 
sitting room or when space limitations are espe- 
cially stringent to other rooms as well, to provide 
accommodation for guests. The pictures above show 
what architect-designed built-in equipment can do 
to solve the problem of clothes storage, save floor 
space, and improve appearance. In view 120, note 
particularly the handy wall recess for shoes just in- 
side the sliding doors. Such a recess, placed be- 
tween the partition studs, takes no space at all, and 
can be built by any carpenter. 



The bedroom above is the handsomest we 'have 
come across in a good many years of looking at 
modern houses all over the country. It is interest- 
ing how "at home" in this thoroughly modern 
room is the bow-back Windsor chair, the best 
piece of furniture America has produced. For 
certain functional needs like the dressing table 
in view 122, the desk in view 123 and the 
bedback in view 125, modern furniture is man- 
datory. But do not hesitate to mix in traditional 
pieces if you happen to feel like it, or insist that 
the furniture be modern because the architec- 
ture is. 


In the sleeping as well as the living portions of 
the house modern planning ideas can be employed 
to save space, increase comfort or add entirely 
new functions to commonplace rooms. View I 26, 
for example, shows how a sliding partition can be 
used to create a combination bedroom-playroom 
for the children, sunny and spacious by day, cozy 
and intimate by night. In the room shown in 1 27, 
the same device is employed to divide sleeping 
and dressing areas, so that the latter can be kept 
warm all night long. The pictures on this page 
show several versions of the popular double bunk, 
including one (129) in which the upper bunk is 
offset to take advantage of the space above the 
sloping ceiling of a stairway. 

Nowhere in the house are the fittings so important 
as in the bedroom, where space is usually at a pre- 
mium and the storage question is critical. In the solu- 
tion of this problem there is almost no limit to what 
ingenious design can accomplish. A few examples of 
such ingenuity are shown here: a variety of built-in, 
space saving chests of drawers; closet doors which 
also function as a fitting-mirror (134); a minimal 
guest room (135 and 136) scarcely larger than a 
good sized bath, but providing a writing desk and 
fireplace as well as a generous closet. All are carried 
out in an attractive, economical fashion; the main 
investment is in design, not in space or materials. 



One criticism frequently leveled at the large win- 
dows employed in modern architecture is that they 
do not leave enough wall space for furniture. The 
rooms shown here provide a striking refutation of 
this argument. As view 140 shows, window and 
furniture design can be integrated in a way that 
provides a maximum of both glass and storage space, 
and a simpler, better looking wall to boot. The same 
principle has been applied to the windows in 139 
and 141, while view 138 shows how it can be ex- 
tended to the bedroom corridor. View 137 shows 
a storage space for fireplace logs tucked into the 
bottom of an inside "storagewall" flanking a some- 
what similar passage. 




Built-in storage equipment can make as great a con- 
tribution to the living rooms as it does to the bed- 
rooms of the modern house, and it also has the 
important job of creating functional divisions in the 
"open plan." Thus the three storage units on the 
facing page serve as semi-partitions between a dining 
room and stairway (142), and living and dining 
rooms (143 and 14-4 in the latter, note the con- 
venient slots at the end of the unit for card tables 
and trays). The views on this page show wall-high 
cabinets for books, and two of the units, 145 and 
146, include built-in radio-phonographs. The shelv- 
ing in 147 is covered by a horizontally-sliding ver- 
sion of the roller desktop. 

From storage cabinets and furniture attached to the 
walls, as in 1 48 and 1 49, it is only a step to the use 
of such equipment to form the walls themselves a 
device which we have named the "storagewall." 
This arrangement takes only a little more space than 
the ordinary partition, and is extremely flexible, 
since the various units used to make up a particular 
wall can be arranged in any desirable pattern and 
faced in either direction, serving two rooms with 
the same wall. The wall shown in ISO (which we 
designed for LIFE) is intended for use between a 
living room and entrance hall, and is I 2 inches thick. 




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ONCE UPON A TIME all houses had attics and base- 
ments. The basements were full of furnaces, vege- 
tables, garden tools, rubber boots, canned goods, 
trunks the familiar combination of junk and use- 
ful things a family accumulates. The same was true 
of attics, except that their contents were mostly 
junk. World War I had the highly desirable effect 
of removing a lot of scrap iron from these attics, 
thus bringing a semblance of order to the storage 
spaces of millions of American homes. By the time 
World War II came around, the attics and base- 
ments were just as full as they had ever been. 

One of the minor miracles in everyone's experi- 
ence is the annual cleaning bee, during which 
mother or the entire family, on an appointed day 
in the spring, swoop up into the attic for the yearly 
cleaning. The amazing part of this operation is not 
the elimination of things, but the fact that once the 
junk is stacked in orderly piles there suddenly 
seems to be a tremendous amount of space left 
over, although at the beginning the entire room 
was so cluttered that you could hardly walk around 
in it. It is the moral behind this recurring experi- 
ence that forms the basis for the theme of this 
chapter; that is, if you have an adequate number 
of storage spaces, properly shaped and properly 
located, you can take care of everything that has 
to be kept out of sight and still have a good deal 
of space left over. 

It is common knowledge that the house today is 
smaller than it used to be. Part of this shrinkage 
has taken place in the rooms themselves. However, 
not only are individual rooms smaller, but there 
are fewer of them. Part and parcel of this process 
of shrinkage is the gradual disappearance of both 
attics and basements. Attics have disappeared for 
a number of reasons. One is the popular practice 
of tucking bedrooms under the eaves and using 
dormers to let in the light. Another is the increas- 
ing popularity of low-pitched roofs, which do not 
have a space under them big enough to be used 
as an attic. 

Basements are disappearing for a number of 
equally good reasons. One is the fact that modern 
heating plants are compact. The hot air furnaces 
of thirty years ago, looking for all the world like 
giant metallic spiders of some antediluvian period, 
needed plenty of space in the cellar. Since then 
there has been a shift from coal to oil or gas, nei- 
ther of which requires cellar space. It is possible 
that our oil supply may dwindle to the point where 
it will become less available for heating than it has 
been; but electricity, which is the most convenient 
of all, is coming along to take its place. The change 
in heating equipment, however, is by no means the 
only reason that basements have shrunk. We don't 
keep vegetables in them the way we used to, and 



home canning, at least until World War II broke 
out, was rapidly becoming a lost art. Finally, the 
appearance of radiant floor heating may very well 
eliminate basements, or at least reduce them in the 
future to tiny storage chambers. 


One of the most disagreeable things about small 
houses built in recent years is that, while basements 
and attics have shrunk almost to the vanishing 
point, the builders have included no more space in 
the general living area. The result for hundreds of 
thousands of families has been sheer frustration, 
because in these houses there is no space for trunks, 
old furniture, or any of the innumerable bulky 
objects which must be kept around the house. 
Obviously this is an intolerable situation. The ac- 
commodations once provided by cellar and attic 
must be replaced by equivalent storage space else- 
where. For years the major complaint of the 
American housewife has been that never has she 
lived in a house with enough closets. When she 
says she does not have enough closets, she thinks 
she means closets; actually she means something 
quite" different. A closet is a place where clothes 
and blankets and very few other items should be 
stored. For everything else in or around the house, 
the closet is no solution at all. 


Next time you go down to the corner drugstore, 
grocery, or delicatessen, look to see how your local 
merchant stores his wares. There are bins, cup- 
boards, and show cases, but most of the storage is 
wall storage. A shop-keeper may stock hundreds 
of individual items, yet he can find any of them in 
an instant. If he had to sell his stock out of closets, 
he would go crazy. So would the housewife. In a 
minor way this is what the housewife is trying to 
do in the average house. 

Just a few days ago, one of us went down to the 
local hardware store and talked to the owner. How 
many items did he have in his store? "Well," he 
said, rubbing his chin, "I don't know. I have never 
looked at my inventory that way, but I would 
guess that if you counted everything it would be 
between six and eight thousand items." Checking 
over this impressive array of stock we made an- 
other discovery : aside from a few very bulky pieces, 
like wheelbarrows and baskets, garden tools and 
rope, everything fitted very comfortably on shelves 
not more than ten inches wide. Let us keep this 
fact in mind, because it is of the greatest impor- 
tance in working out a really efficient storage 


Closets are no good for little things because to- 
much space is wasted. They are equally unsuitable 
for the larger objects which have to be put away 
in every household. A list of such things would 
include the baby carriage and, when the children 
grow older, their bicycles. It would include the 
lawn mower and the roller, the rakes and luggage, 
the summer rugs and out-door furniture. Where do 
they go? In many houses, if there is a basement, 
they go in the basement. But the chances are that 
your new house may not have a basement. Cer- 
tainly no one is going to build a cellar, which is 
an expensive construction, just for the baby car- 
riage, because it should never get off the ground 
level, anyway. The same is true of garden tools 
and bicycles. 

One excellent solution for this storage problem 
is the garage, where there is room to store skis, 
luggage, summer furniture, and other awkward-to- 
handle items which are moved only once or twice 
a year. Some garages are equipped with a kind of 
storage mezzanine under which the hood of the car 
will fit, so that still more space is provided. What 
we are considering here, though, is the question of 


possibly making the garage three or four feet wider 
than it would have to be if only the car were to be 
considered. This extra footage could be fitted with 
compartments for the carriage, lawn mower and 
roller, bicycles, etc., all of which could be taken 
out and put back easily. 

The problem of bulky objects can also be solved 
independently of the garage. A room for this pur- 
pose can be attached to the house, or it can be a 
kind of super garden shed somewhere but in the 
yard. If this sounds a little like a return to grand- 
father's woodshed, what of it? Grandfather had 
some pretty good ideas. 


If elimination of the basement as a storage space 
can be compensated for in one of the ways men- 
tioned, or perhaps in some other, we still have to 
remove the furnace. Can a furnace be placed above 
ground? In the older types of heating systems 
which used gravity to get cold air or cold water 
back to the furnace for reheating, the basement 
was the only suitable place because it had to be 
below the level of the lowest living floor. But mod- 
ern heating systems don't work on gravity, that is, 
none but the least expensive. The warm air instal- 
lations, which are generally described as air-con- 
ditioning systems, work on a forced draft, using a 

blower somewhere in the ducts which pushes the 
warm air into the rooms and sucks the cold air 
back in. Reliance on gravity, therefore, is no longer 
a consideration, and the same is true of the hot- 
water plants, almost all of which have circulating 
pumps on the return line from the radiators. 

Thus we have the very attractive possibility of 
putting the furnace or boiler on the first floor, 
where it can be gotten at easily without any loss of 
efficiency in heating. 


Having disposed of the bulky objects, we come to 
the question of "active storage." Active storage 
covers everything that is used frequently in the 
house. It may include a broom, which from this 
point of view is very active indeed, or a can of 
stewed tomatoes, which may sit on a shelf for 
months. They are alike, nevertheless, in that when 
you want them you want them right away, and 
without traveling to the other end of the house to 
get them. 

The trouble with ordinary closets when the ques- 
tion of active storage is considered is that they are 
unorganized space. You can set things in a closet 
or you can hang them, but there are few things 
which are satisfactorily taken care of by hanging 
or leaning. 



Are you one of those unfortunates who has to 
take a card table out of the front hall coat closet 
once every week or two? If so, you are familiar 
with the agonizing process of trying to lift all the 
coats out of the way and somehow wangling the 
table out of its hiding place in the back without 
sweeping all the rubbers and overshoes into the 
hall. You are lucky if this is all that happens, be- 
cause in the same closet there may very well be 
golf clubs, a pair of skis, undoubtedly a set of roller 
skates, and maybe a couple of umbrellas and a 
movie projector. Perhaps you keep just a few of 
these things in your hall closet, but the chances are 
pretty good that by the time the card table is out 
you are more in the mood for a stiff drink than a 
quiet game of bridge. 

Here are some of the items that most people, for 
want of better space, keep in closets: toys, um- 
brellas, tricycles, hat boxes, luggage, electric light 
bulbs, overshoes, batteries, -wires, tools, tennis 
rackets, rubbers, movie screens, and sewing ma- 
chines. Every one of these items, and the dozens 
you could probably add after going through your 
own closets, deserves proper storage space, but 
that storage space should be somewhere else. 
Moreover, if you get out the tape measure and 
check the dimensions of these objects, you will 
find that few of them need a space deeper than ten 
inches and most would fit in less. 


We have already seen what shopkeepers, who 
have to be efficient people, do about storing goods 
they use narrow shelves and a lot of them. How 
does this approach work for the house? We might 
start with the broom closet in your kitchen, which, 
if it is one of the standard manufactured units, is 
a really wonderful thing. Into this cabinet or 
closet, which is not much more than twelve inches 
deep or wide, you can put one or two brooms, 


whisk broom, dust rags, floor wax, a mop, dustpan, 
and perhaps a vacuum cleaner. They go in easily 
and they come out easily. Forgetting the appear- 
ance of this unit, let us suppose that the wall in 
your front hall is ten or twelve inches thick instead 
of six, so that you have about eight of these broom 
closets, side by side. A setup like this would give 
you organized storage space. You could keep your 
golf clubs, skis, or walking sticks in one; in an- 
other, the umbrellas and rain coats. In a third there 
might be racks for rubbers and overshoes, and so 
on. The appearance, to be sure, might suggest a 
typical row of gymnasium lockers, but you would 
find, if you had an architect worthy of the name, 
that he could use a very handsome series of wood 
doors, which would look much better than wall- 
paper or painted plaster. The joys of a hall so 
equipped are not yet ended, however, for in the 
space above the broom closets or whatever they 
will be called there is room for hats, possibly an 
overnight bag or two but there is no need to ex- 
tend this list since you probably have the space 
filled already. "But what about the card table?" 
you may ask at this point. "How does one get a 
card table into a broom closet?" The answer is 
that you don't, because it is just a matter of making 
an opening hi the end of a wall wide enough for 
the insertion of card tables, trays, or other objects 
that have the same general size and shape. 


It should be clear by now what we are driving at. 
Storage space, if sufficiently specialized, can hold 
practically anything in the house that has to be put 
away. As we have already seen, most of these ob- 
jects are small ones. Now let us look at the house 
plan. If you take the plan of an average three- 
bedroom house and put all of the non-bearing 
partitions (that is, walls which do not serve to hold 
up ceiling beams) in a straight line, you would 
probably find that you had about 150 feet of wall 
in a straight line. This is point one. Now let us 
assume that this length of wall has been fattened 
out from 6 inches to 1 1 or 12 inches so that there 
is about 10 inches of clear space on the inside. 
This is point two. Now for point three, which is 
the payoff: if in these thick walls we installed an 
average of six shelves, our three-bedroom house 
would have in its non-bearing partitions a total of 
900 running feet of shelf space. Could you use it? 
We think you could. 

This, then, is the theory of essential storage 
space in the home the replacement of certain par- 
titions by units which are really cupboards. These 
partition-cupboards would be scattered through 
the house according to which rooms make the 
greatest demands for storage, and they would be 
made up of open shelves, as in the living-room or 
library, where we want the books to show; draw- 
ers, as in the dining-room or kitchen, where we 
have to store linens, silver, etc.; or solid doors 
which look like nothing more than wood paneling, 
where we want to keep things out of sight. 


Realizing that this scheme for storing things 
might strike practical housekeepers unfavorably, 
we took the trouble of checking it with a number 
of people before presenting it here. These were 


their objections, and perhaps they coincide with 
some of yours: 

1) Appearance. Few like the idea of a wall 
covered with knobs and handles. As it happens, 
you can find in some fine old Colonial houses 
built-in bureaus and cupboards which take up a 
large part of a wall, and where the knobs and 
handles on doors and drawers make a very pleas- 
ing pattern. Nevertheless, you don't have to have 
them if you don't want them. There is a kind of 
spring catch available, to cite one example, where 
a door is opened by pushing lightly on it. With 
this kind of hardware, no knobs or pulls are visible. 
Then, too, drawers can be designed so that they 
can be pulled out without the use of knobs. Sliding 
doors can be operated with nothing more than a 
recessed finger pull. In other words, despite the 
existence of a great deal of concealed storage space, 
the walls can be designed so that they give little or 
no hint of what is going on behind the surface. 

2) Loss of wall space for furnishing. When this 
arrangement was described to one person, she 
replied that it sounded very well, but what if you 
wanted to put a table against such a wall? Then 
the table would have to be moved before you 
could get to the cupboard. Here the essential flex- 
ibility of the storage wall has to be put into play. 
These storage spaces are accessible, as you choose, 
from either side of the wall. If the storage wall, 
were located, let us say, between the living-room 
and a corridor, the space above table height could 
open on the living-room side, and the space below 
could open o'n the corridor side, and there is a 
great deal in the way of games and equipment that 
could be stored in the corridor very appropriately. 

3) Cost. Here we have a very real basis for 
objection. It is not necessary to make elaborate 
cost estimates to know that this type of wall is 
going to be much more expensive than a plain 
partition, but it should be. After all, consider what 
it can do that a partition cannot. There are very 



few places where one can get something for noth- 
ing, and a house is definitely not among them. In 
considering the question of cost, however, there is 
one mitigating factor that should be considered 
at this point. 


Let us assume that our first wall-storage unit is 
going to be installed in the bedroom. In it we will 
keep the bed linens, possibly extra blankets, cer- 
tainly all our shoes and hats, perhaps a few books, 
and, of course, all the clothing now stored in the 
bureau. With such a wall, we have no need for a 
bureau or a chiffonier, both of which are normally 
found in a typical bedroom. And if you felt like 
getting rid of the dressing table, a pull-down dress- 
ing table installed in the wall would work just as 
well and take up much less space than the kind 
that stands on legs. By eliminating the bureau, the 
chiffonier, and possibly the dressing table, a saving 
can be made in actual dollars and cents. To esti- 
mate accurately, however, other factors must also 
be considered. A great deal of the time spent in 
cleaning a bedroom is wasted by the necessity of 
getting underneath various pieces of furniture, 
dusting and polishing the pieces, and pushing 
them around. If you hire people to do your clean- 
ing, this saving of labor can be figured in a very 
precise manner. Should you be one of the majority 
of people who do their own cleaning, think what 
the saving of personal wear and tear over a period 
of twenty years might be worth, again, if you like, 
in dollars and cents. 

Now let us try the dining-room. Here a logical 
place for the storage wall would be on the kitchen 
side, because silver, linens, and dishes will be kept 
in it. With cupboard doors opening front and back, 
and two-way drawers, we find that the side board 
and the china cabinet are no longer necessary. If 
you have really fine dishes, china cabinets are no 
good for display purposes, anyway. Some section 

of the storage wall, fitted with glass sliding doors 
and illuminated from inside, would turn these 
formerly hidden heirlooms into a really beautiful 
wall decoration. Another saving, if you want to 
try to make it, could be produced by reducing the 
size of the dining-room somewhat, since at least 
two bulky pieces of furniture have been eliminated 

In the living-room the same possibilities are evi 
dent. The desk could be a hinged unit which would 
swing out of the wall. If you use a typewriter all 
the time, a stand for it could be built in. The draw- 
ers that make up each side of the conventional 
kneehole desk are practically useless because 
things stored in a desk should be kept in very shal- 
low drawers. You will do far better with two dozen 
one-inch drawers than with the present four- or 
six-inch drawers; you will be able to store much 
more and things will be easier to find. The drawe 
of tables in living-rooms, at least most of the tabl 
whose owners have allowed us to look inside of 
them, are stuffed with playing cards, photograph 
albums, ash trays, poker chips, extra cigarettes, old 
theater programs, etc. If you cannot bear to throw 
out any of these rarely looked at mementos, you 
would still be better off if they were stored behind 
a wall and out of sight. 

A short while ago we asked a famous industrial 
designer what he thought the best radio cabinet 
was. In a burst of unbusinesslike honesty, he re- 
plied, "No cabinet. The best place for a radio and 
speaker and record-player is in the wall some place 
so that you don't have to dust it and you don't 
have to look at it except when you are using it." 
Following this suggestion, we would therefore be 
inclined to take our radio out of its fancy imitation 
Chippendale cabinet and tuck the works into the 
storage wall. Placing the speakers in one of the 
upper units would give far better acoustical quali- 
ties. To hold the record-player and records, the 
wall would have to be more than ten inches thick, 
which suggests that the wall as a whole be made 



deeper, or certain cabinets in its lower portion be 
made as wide projecting units. Records and al- 
bums and sheet music could all be stored in such 
cabinets. So could the movie projector and the 
bulkier kinds of amusement apparatus. 

If it is your family's habit to serve cocktails or 
highballs in the living-room, it is convenient to 
keep bottles, glasses, and ice bucket in the storage 
wall. It would be a very simple matter to build 
the front of this bar unit as a shallow metal-lined 
tray which, when let down, would provide a safe 
water-proof surface on which to mix the drinks. 

These suggestions, of course, barely touch the 
possibilities of the storage wall, and uses of the 
wall would vary widely from one family to another. 
If family A collects ivory elephants, and family B 
likes pictures, and family C is proud of its collec- 
tion of fine books, and family D subscribes to 
thirty weekly and monthly magazines, these units 
would be used in totally diiferent ways. Everyone 
would be completely satisfied, too. The books and 
the elephants could be displayed most effectively, 
while the magazines, if installed in slanting racks, 
would be interesting to look at and easy to find. 
In other words, what we have here is another in- 
stance of standardization functioning not as a 
straight-jacket but as a means for freeing the ex- 

pression of family tastes. The storage wall is just 
a framework. It becomes what one makes of it. 


It would seem from the foregoing that the good 
old closet has been practically eliminated. Such is 
almost the case, but not quite. What has been done 
eliminates closet storage for almost everything ex- 
cept clothes, and now, relieved of the necessity of 
doing things for which it is totally unfit, the closet 
can become an extremely efficient special unit. As 
a shallow box a little less than two and a half feet 
deep, it becomes a perfect unit for suits and dresses. 
Actually, a hanger with clothes on it can be ac- 
commodated in a still narrower space, but we 
must provide clearance for the moth bags in which 
summer and winter clothes will be put. 

The design of the efficient clothes closet is simple. 
The hanging rod should be high enough to accom- 
modate long evening dresses. Everyday clothes 
hun from this height will be quite convenient to 
get at, so there is no need to install two sets of bars. 
This shallow type of closet should have an opening 
across its entire front. Whether you use sliding 
panels or swinging doors does not matter, although 
it has been our experience that the latter are far 
more convenient. But a full opening must be pro- 


vided in one way or another, because nothing is 
more annoying than trying to reach in through a 
narrow door to find clothes at the end of a shallow 
closet. In this closet there will also be a light over 
the door. Tube lights extending the full length of 
the opening inside would be ideal. If the upper 
part of the space is to be used for blankets and 
odds and ends, it should have its own door above 
the door to the closet proper so that they will be 
easy to get at. The floor should be raised somewhat 
to keep out dust from the bedroom, and all the 
corners should be curved for easy cleaning. Clean- 
ing, by the way, will be pretty easy, because shoes 
and other things that used to clutter up the closet 
floor will now be installed in one or another of the 
special wall cabinets. The approach to the storage 
problem, as we now see, is by no means a matter 
of installing a lot of closets. It involves a very 
thoughtful estimate of what you want to keep 
where, how big it is, and how often it has to be 
taken out or put back. The solutions will range all 
the way from an enlarged garage or storage shed 
out in the back yard to slots in the walls and special 
cupboards, shelves, and drawers of the most varied 
types. Once this part of the planning process has 
been gone through and the right spaces have been 
provided, the same thing that we discovered when 
the attic was cleaned will be evident. Instead of 
having wasted space, as might first seem to be the 
case since so much storage space is contemplated 
for all parts of the house, we will have saved space. 

We will not be putting handkerchiefs, which re- 
quire two-inch drawers, into drawers which are six 
inches deep. Dishes ten inches in diameter will not 
be stacked in kitchen cupboards which are sixteen 
inches deep. The house planned on this basis will 
have more storage than anyone ever dreamed was 
possible in a dwelling of reasonable size; and yet, 
because there will be a place for everything and 
much useless furniture" will be eliminated, there 
will also be more space for unencumbered living. 
Don't think that planning this kind of a house 
is easy. It isn't. But a lot more will come out of 
the work than went into it, because planning a 
house is at the most a matter of months and using 
it can run into generations. It would be wonderful, 
indeed, if we could go down to the local building- 
supply house tomorrow and order the storage wall 
units and the closets we would like to have; but 
we can't. Nobody makes them yet, although the 
time is not far off when they will be made. In the 
meantime it will be necessary to rely on the car- 
penter and the cabinetmaker, who will have to 
build these walls from special designs, and the 
cost will inevitably be higher. Some of this added 
expense can be made up from savings on furniture 
and savings in maintenance, but not all of it. As 
for the difference, you will just have to make up 
your mind to spend some extra money, because 
the added expenditure will really pay off. So plan 
your storage space as you want it and then build 
it as you can best afford it. 




ABOUT FOUR years ago we had occasion to make 
a general survey of what had happened to the de- 
sign of broadcasting studios. These rooms pre- 
sented immensely diffi^lt acoustical problems, 
partly because of the nature of radio broadcasting 
itself, partly because the rooms must be sufficiently 
flexible in their engineering design to permit the 
perfect reproduction of sounds ranging all the way 
from the voice of one person to the very complex 
noises made by an entire orchestra. Our assump- 
tion when the research was begun was that acous- 
tics as a science had a very precise basis, and that 
the first broadcasting studios had been calculated 
with as much efficiency as the most recent. Nothing 
could have been farther from the truth. 

One of the earliest studios examined had been 
built in 1928. It was a plain rectangular room with 
sound-absorbing material on the ceiling. It must 
have been quite unsatisfactory from the acoustical 
point of view, but at that time so were the receiving 
sets, and the demand for fidelity was not nearly so 
great as it became in subsequent years. 

Another studio, built in 1932, was still a rec- 
tangular room except that the corners had been 
replaced by diagonal walls, and acoustical material 
was used not only on the ceiling but also on some 
of the walls. Six years later the Columbia Broad- 

casting System installed some studios the like of 
which had never been seen in this country. The 
walls, instead of going straight up and down, were 
tilted. Strange broken surfaces jutted out into the 
room. On certain walls where sound-absorbing 
material had been used, there were panels of ply- 
wood designed to reflect sound and to give it reso- 
nance. In the most recent of the studios the walls 
have been shifted around so that they are not par- 
allel to each other, and the ceilings have been 
broken up so that no section of this surface is par- 
allel to the floor. What this adds up to is that acous- 
tical science, presented with very specific and ad- 
mittedly difficult problems, has completely altered 
room design in an interval of barely more than a 
decade. Today the engineers are sufficiently well 
equipped in knowledge and experience to help the 
architect produce any kind of acoustical effect in 
any kind of interior. 

Possibly you have never thought of acoustical 
design in connection with your home. Neverthe- 
less, sound control can be a vital factor in improv- 
ing livability and establishing a greater degree of 
privacy. Moreover, the smaller the house, the 
greater the need to pay attention to this completely 
neglected factor in house design. It is possible 
and, we feel, highly probable that at some point 



in the future the rectangular shapes now considered 
standard for rooms will be abandoned in favor of 
other shapes which to any of us at the moment 
would look very strange. 

Some of these shapes will be brought into exis- 
tence by the requirements of large-scale factory 
production, just as your car over a period of forty 
years has changed from an assembly of flat planes 
and sharp corners to the present complex machine 
whose every surface is part of a compound curve. 
This belongs to the future, however. The purpose 
of this chapter is to examine what can be done 
with the house as it is being designed today and 
will continue to be designed in the forseeable 


The broadcasting studios, as we have seen, were 
the first building interiors to react sharply to the 
demands for higher fidelity of sound reproduction. 
This is as it should be, for while a very few people 
can see what is going on in a broadcasting studio, 
tens of millions can hear. When sound came to the 
movies, theater design changed. The good movie 
houses of the late thirties and early forties showed 
the effect of talking pictures very clearly. Again we 
find two characteristics: one is the abandonment 
of parallel walls or surfaces; the other is the use of 
carefully designed surfaces, some of which reflect 
sound very brilliantly while others absorb it almost 

Next to feel the effect were the offices, particu- 
larly those large rooms where thirty to three hun- 
dred typewriters might be clacking away at the 
same time. In these spaces it was found that acous- 
tical plaster on the ceiling or those attractively 
textured and perforated tiles did a great deal to 
reduce the general noise level. This was done not 
merely to increase the well-being of the employees 
although it did have that effect but because the 
experts who carefully studied the causes of fatigue 
and its relation to output found that greater effi- 

ciency paid for such installations in a very short 

It was also found that sound could be controlled 
to an appreciable extent by the use of noiseless 
typewriters, which brings up a third procedure 
that can be applied to the design of the house 
the elimination of noise at its source. 

The next building type to fall in line was the fac- 
tory. When the war broke out and billions of 
dollars were invested in the construction of new 
industrial plants, it was found that what held for 
office workers and their morale and efficiency was 
also true for factory workers. We have already 
described the immense bomber plant in the South- 
west whose mile-long walls and ceiling are packed 
full of sound-absorbing material. This was not as 
expensive as it may sound, because the acoustical 
material is also used for insulation against heat and 
cold. This is another expedient that the home 
builder may consider: multiple use of materials so 
that the expense for any given requirement is not 
too great. 


We now have four techniques with which to 
attack the problem of sound control in the home. 
The question is, what is this problem we are trying 
to attack? For the average family it breaks down 
into two parts. The first is the matter of maintain- 
ing complete quiet in certain areas let us say, in 
the bedroom where a small child is sleeping. A 
solution of this would be letting the child sleep 
without forcing the rest of the family to go about 
on tiptoe. 

The second general situation is one where con- 
flicting activities acoustically speaking, of course 
are carried on in the same room or in the same 
part of the house. For example, father wants to 
read the paper, mother wants to carry on a long 
telephone conversation with a friend, and the chil- 
dren want to listen to the latest installment of some 
radio thriller. The resulting acoustical conflict is 


normally left unsolved, except in the houses of the 
very rich where there is enough space for the vari- 
ous members of the family to get away from each 

In addition to these two very common situations 
there frequently arises a third. That is, when the 
family takes great pleasure in listening to the radio, 
to phonograph records, or to music produced by 
the family itself. If you take a five hundred dollar 
radio with all of the wonderful quality which has 
been built into it and put it into the average small 
living-room, the chances are that it will not sound 
much better than a fifty dollar radio. However, we 
are told by the acoustical engineers that a living- 
room can be designed so that its sound character- 
istics are not very different from those of a full- 
scale symphony hall; that it is possible, in other 
words, to design this room so that your five hun- 
dred dollar radio (or even the fifty dollar one, for 
that matter) gives a performance comparable in 
quality to that of an orchestra. 

Those who are interested in obtaining this spe- 
cial added livability for their home must use an 
architect who is willing and able to work with a 
first-rate acoustical engineer as a consultant. We 
say "willing" because the room that will result 
from a successful collaboration on the part of 
these two technicians will be rather unconventional 
though far from unpleasing in shape, and it cer- 
tainly will not fit comfortably into any known kind 
of "period" house. 

One of us had occasion recently to design a 
house in New York where a major factor in the 
design of the living-room was precisely this acous- 
tical quality. The best radio-phonograph combina- 
tion obtainable was not considered good enough, 
and one was specially built. Also, there were two 
pianos. By the time the architects and engineers 
got through, one wall was padded to a depth of 
several inches with rock wool and covered with a 
kind of grass matting which allowed the sound to 
go through the surface; the other wall was paneled 

with sheets of oak plywood held loosely in place 
so that the proper brilliance of sound could be 
obtained; the two end walls, which were entirely 
of glass, were set so that they were not parallel to 
each other. The ceiling was constructed of wood 
frames covered with stretched linen, and behind 
the linen were some areas filled with broken sheets 
of wallboards so that sounds would be reflected in 
an irregular manner; other parts of the ceiling 
were heavily padded with rock wool. 

This was admittedly an extreme procedure, and 
it was by no means cheap. The results, however, 
were extraordinary as far as quality of sound is 
concerned, and the room's appearance generally 
produced a favorable impression. The only point 
of this example is that while such a procedure does 
not apply to the house of minimum cost, it most 
definitely is not restricted to houses for the very 
rich. Just as in the bomber plant, the rock wool 
padding on wall and ceiling can be used for heat 
insulation as well as sound absorption. And finish- 
ing materials such as linen and grass matting are 
by no means beyond the reach of the middle-class 

However, let us return to the more general 
questions of how to establish quiet zones within 
the house and how to reduce the discomfort pro- 
duced by conflicting family activities. 



Basically this objective may be stated in a simple 
and precise manner: we want to design a house in 
which anybody can carry on any normal activity 
without disturbing the rest of the family. 

In some of the preceding chapters it has been 
evident that a one-story house has many advan- 
tages over a two-story house. Where acoustics are 
concerned, the advantage is very marked indeed. 
In the average two-story house where most of the 
bedrooms are on the second floor and the main 
noise-producing rooms are on the first, sound 
travels far too easily. It goes up the stair well and 
into the bedrooms through door cracks or through 
the doors themselves. It also goes through the floor 
boards, which function in much the same manner 
as a drum that is, any sounds picked up by one 
surface are given off by the other. Two-story 
houses have their advantages. Their compactness 
is perhaps the greatest. But, acoustically speaking, 
they have no merit whatsoever. 

It is possible and, for that matter, it has been 
done to build multi-storied houses whose acous- 

struction, and many of those who can feel that i : 
is pretty much a waste of money. If an attempt is 
made to achieve the soundproof qualities of the 
concrete-and-masonry house while using wood 
something could possibly be worked out in the 
way of separating floor and ceiling construction 
But it would be costly and not very effective. 

Turning to the one-story house we find the fol- 
lowing advantages : A one-story house of necessitj 
places its bedrooms at some distance from the 
main living areas, and distance alone is a factor ir 
sound control. The bedroom corridor, unlike the: 
stair well, can be treated very easily so that sounds, 
which do penetrate into it are absorbed anc 
stopped. It is also possible to put sound barriers, 
between the noisy rooms and the quiet rooms. 
Among those that might be considered, a stone 
wall with a fireplace in it comes close to being 
ideal, because, as a rule, the thicker and heavier 
the barrier, the less likelihood there is of penetra- 
tion by sound. If there is no fireplace, a thinner 
wall of cinder block or some such material is very 
effective. A bank of closets is also a satisfactory 

tical properties are admirable. But this generally 
involves the elimination of wood construction in 
favor of some heavy type of fireproof building 
where the second floor is of reinforced concrete or 
an equally- dense and weighty material. Few people, 
however, can afford to pay for this kind of con- 

sound-stopper, should the plan permit such an 

The essential advantage, however, is the factor 
of separation, with the possibility of stopping the 
sound before it gets too close to the rooms from 
which it should be excluded. 


Anything done to stop sound where it originates 
works exactly like the traditional ounce of pre- 
vention it eliminates the need for a cure. Let us 
consider some of the rooms that are the worst 

These rooms include the living-room, dining- 
room, kitchen, playroom, and bathroom; of these, 
the bathroom is the most annoying because it can 
be the most embarrassing. Everyone is familiar 
with the disagreeable interruption made by the 
noisy flushing of a toilet adjoining the main living 
space. And it is an unfortunate coincidence that 
the water closet, for functional reasons, is shaped 
almost like a trumpet. A trumpet, as one might 
well imagine, is no shape for suppressing noise at 
its source. Conceivably something could be done 
to modify the design of the present-day water 
closet to produce a shape more satisfactory acous- 
tically and equally efficient in other respects. How- 
ever, since no such water closet exists, we may as 
well forget it for the time being. 

Because of this unfortunate design we have a 
clearly unhappy situation, and one which is height- 
ened by the fact that the ideal bathroom, as seen 
by most prospective homeowners, is an interior in 
which all the surfaces are hard, waterproof, and 
therefore highly sound-reflective. Here is where we 
find the opening wedge for our attack on bath- 
room noises at their source. In the first place, soil 
lines that is, the pipes which carry waste matter 
from the bathroom fixtures can be packed in in- 
sulating material, which tends to deaden noise 
somewhat. Tile and hard plaster can be replaced 
by such materials as sheet rubber, linoleum, and 
other materials which are water-repellent and also 
resilient. This helps to reduce reflected noise. On 
the ceiling a standard acoustical material can be 
used either one of the plasters manufactured 
specifically for this purpose, or the perforated 
metal panels, or perforated or textured fiber boards 

which have been on the market for some years. 

The floor can be covered with a soft rather than 
a hard material. The upper parts of the walls, that 
are not exposed to moisture can have the perfo- 
rated acoustical materials already mentioned. In 
addition, a heavy flush door, weather-stripped in 
the bargain, would do a great deal to reduce the 
direct transmission of sound. This weather-strip- 
ping, incidentally, need not consist of anything 
more than a strip of felt, rubber, or some other 
material permitting a tight seal to be made, and it 
would be attached to the door stop. 

Location of the bath can be as important as any 
of these suggested control measures. For example, 
if we are considering a downstairs lavatory, it could 
be 'arranged to reduce transmission of sound. In 
one such arrangement there is a fireplace wall be- 
tween it and the living-room, and the coat closet 
off the front hall serves as an entry. Remember, by 
the way, that a closet is a wonderful sound barrier, 
because the clothes will absorb any sound that 
passes through. 

This combination closet-sound barrier also 
suggests an excellent solution for the telephone 
problem, because if a little telephone desk is in- 
corporated with the closet-corridor, conversations 
can be carried on without annoying anyone who 
might be trying to read or study in the adjoining 

Acoustical control, it must be emphasized again 
and again, is as much a matter of thoughtful plan- 
ning as of installation of special materials. It is 
true that under certain conditions planning won't 
do the job, and special materials have to be used. 
A good example of this is the open-front telephone 
booth used in New York City's newest subway. 
There, even with the terrific clatter of passing 
trains, it is possible to carry on an intelligible con- 
versation. This seeming miracle is the result of 
using three walls of sound-absorbing materials for 
the booth. 



In the house where the corridor-closet-phone 
room combination isn't possible, some variation 
of this scheme would work very well, for it takes 
up very little space and costs very little money. 


The annoyances produced by the hired girl in the 
kitchen, who tosses your best china around with 
the utmost abandon while you are trying to be 
polite to your husband's boss after dinner, are too 
well known to require extended description. Even 
if there is no hired girl and no ceremonial dinner, 
the noise problem remains. 

There are some expedients for cutting off the 
sound at its source, but they are by no means 100 
per cent effective. Among them are the replace- 
ment of enameled metal surfaces, such as drain- 
boards, with work counters of wood, perhaps cov- 
ered with linoleum or rubber. A dish or pot 
dropped on such a surface will land with a dull 
thud instead of a noisy crash. Rubber-covered wire 
dish baskets which fit into one's sink if there is a 
double sink, or into the laundry tray if there is a 
combination unit, are, again, exceedingly effective 
in muffling noise. The type of sink which appeared 
before the war, usable as a dishpan as well as a 
sink, also can help control sound, because once 
filled with water the noise of dish and pot washing 
is materially subdued. Over and above this, there 
is the possibility of sound barriers or sound traps 
of one kind or another. 

It is a very convenient characteristic of sound 
that, like light, it does not readily travel around 

corners. Thus, if you plan a small pantry or utility 
space between the kitchen and the dining-room or 
the living-dining room, the wall facing the kitchen 
door could be covered with sound-absorbing ma- 
terial, and what noise did get beyond this second- 
ary space would be greatly reduced. 

In addition to this, however, the home builder 
should consider an acoustically treated ceiling and 
a resilient floor for the kitchen. These should be 
installed not only to keep the noise out of the other 
rooms but also to make work in the kitchen itself 
more agreeable. An empty room and the kitchen 
is, acoustically speaking, empty is far less pleas- 
ant than a room containing sound-absorbing ma- 
terials. You can check this for yourself very easily 
by recalling the difference in sound between a fur- 
nished living-room and the same space before the 
furniture and carpets were moved in. The hollow 
echoing sounds we associate with uninhabited 
houses or apartments are the kind we usually get 
in the inhabited kitchen. It just happens that in the 
kitchen we are used to them and in living-rooms 
we are not. Acoustically treated surfaces in the 
kitchen would perform the same function as up- 
holstered furniture and carpeting in the other 
rooms. And who is to say that a kitchen, where 
most of the housewife's time is spent, should be 
less agreeable in its atmosphere than the living- 


The things discussed so far are concerned chiefly 
with keeping noise in one space from getting into 
another. What about the family living-room where 
three separate kinds of noises may be produced 
within the same space at the same time? Obviously, 
there is not going to be a perfect solution, because 
even if it were technically obtainable it would cost 
too much. Nevertheless, there are some highly de- 
sirable expedients. Take the case of the radio, for 


If the radio faces a sound-absorbent wall, there 
will be two immediate results : the room will seem 
much larger as far as the sound is concerned; and 
noise hitting the opposite wall will not be reflected, 
thus reducing the over-all disturbance. 

Now what about the person who wants to sit 
and read or study while the radio is going? As we 
have seen, the noise cannot be eliminated, but it 
can definitely be reduced. And the solution is 
partly planning, partly use of materials. If the 
living-room is made an L rather than a rectangle, 
and the smaller part of the L is used as a library 
alcove, and if, moreover, the long side of the living- 
room is covered with sound-absorbing material, 
noise would not be reflected around the corner. It 
is pretty likely that this alcove, though completely 
open to the living-room, would be a remarkably 
quiet and pleasant place even if a considerable 
amount of noise were being manufactured in the 
rest of the room. 

If this doesn't prove to be enough, the list of 
expedients is by no means exhausted. A double- 
faced row of bookcases projecting out into the 
room automatically creates a kind of alcove. Books 
themselves ranged on shelves are an exceedingly 
effective sound trap. Thus if the noise problem is 
sufficiently acute, our sound-controlled living- 
room might consist of a large space subdivided by 
a baffle and an alcove. In such a room the average 
family could carry on its separate activities with a 
privacy undreamed of in the average American 

This chapter has been anything but a technical 
treatise on acoustics, yet we have managed to ex- 
amine the many problems of sound control in the 
house and some of the techniques developed in 
other types of buildings. We have learned that 
sound does not travel easily around corners. We 
know that getting around them can be made even 
harder by putting sound-absorbing materials on 
the reflecting surfaces. We know that baffles acous- 

tically treated as in the open-front telephone booth 
can produce privacy within a space without break- 
ing up that space. From the office designer we have 
learned that treatment of the ceiling with sound- 
absorbing materials and treatment of the floor 
with resilient materials or even with carpeting can 
work wonders in reducing the general noise level. 

It is evident that planning, if carried out with 
the question of sound control in mind, can be ex- 
tremely effective, and that a little ingenuity in such 
places as the kitchen can turn it into a quiet and 
agreeable work space. 

If you are hesitating for any reason whatever 
between a one-story plan and a two-story plan, the 
question of acoustics may help in arriving at a 
decision, in spite of the obvious fact that nobody 
who wants a two-story house is going to shift to 
a plan for a single floor just because some of the 
rooms might become quieter. 


One reason people have been slow to adopt tech- 
niques developed in offices and other types of non- 
residential interiors is that they have felt that their 
own home interiors would somehow lose charm in 
the process. As far as sound control is concerned, 
there is nothing whatever to worry about. Every- 
body likes exposed masonry walls whether of stone 
or brick, and when these are used inside the house 
and there are many such examples in the photo- 
graphs scattered through this book not only is the 
wall texture greatly enhanced but sound barriers 
are automatically set up. In the most modern of 
modern houses and the most conservative of con- 
ventional houses, masonry walls are used with the 
greatest willingness by architects and their clients 
alike. Therefore, consider such surfaces not only 
as acoustical factors but also as a decided advan- 
tage when the question of decorating comes up. 
Everyone likes wood, too. There has seldom 



been a house where the owner has not been more 
than willing to install wood paneling. Ten or fif- 
teen years ago this was rather expensive, because 
good wood such as mahogany or walnut or oak 
could only be purchased in solid pieces, and the 
panels had to be installed by expert craftsmen. 
Wood paneling, therefore, has always been asso- 
ciated in the popular mind with luxury. 

Today this limitation no longer exists. Any of 
the big plywood companies can furnish laminated 
sheets four feet by eight feet in size, or larger, ve- 
neered with woods so rare and exotic that their 
use hitherto has been confined to the most expen- 
sive furniture. There is little question about the 
desirability of using such woods in the average 
living-room or even in the master bedroom. Some 
people are so fond of flush plywood paneling that 
they have installed it in their bathrooms. With the 
new finishes available on the market, these panel- 
ings can be made highly water-resistant. 

Here we have the chance to combine improved 
home decoration with ideal sound conditioning. 

And remember that the few dollars an acoustical 
engineer might charge for his consulting services 
is not going to affect your total budget much one 
way or another. Get his advice. 

Sound control techniques embrace many mod- 
ern materials in addition to wood and stone. For- 
tunately, they are all agreeable in appearance and 
rich in texture. The acoustical plasters are much 
softer and much better textured than the white 
plaster that goes on the average ceiling. The same 
is true of the perforated panels, which can be 
painted any color and any number of times with- 
out impairing in any way their high efficiency as 
sound absorbers. These, too, work in particularly 
well with the contemporary decorating scheme, 
where the attempt is to get textural richness through 
the use of machine-produced forms rather than the 
fakery of bygone handicraft techniques. 

Thus we can end with the assurance that the 
sound-conditioned house will not only be pleas- 
anter to live in because it will be quieter, but that 
it will be much better to look at. 



Big, well designed windows are the trademark 
of modern architecture. They are the means of 
bringing together the outdoors and indoors in an 
integrated visual and functional pattern that 
makes living in modern houses an exciting new 
experience. Made possible by modern develop- 
ments in building technology, they can be used 
to reduce fuel bills and increase comfort. In one 
form or another, they are applicable to every 
building problem, and modern architects seem 
able to go on discovering such new forms and 
new applications indefinitely. The examples on 
this page suggest the range of this experimenta- 
tion: a two-story dormer for a studio-workshop 
in Delaware (152), a foldaway window-wall in 
a living room overlooking a California hillside 
(I 53) and an unusual combination of sash, fixed 
glass and glass block from a suburban house near 
Philadelphia (I 54). 

4*" ^'- 


Not every house can enjoy the perfect setting of the 
one above, but when such an opportunity does come 
along it is one of the virtues of modern design that 
it is capable of exploiting it to the maximum. And 
on the ordinary suburban lot, where nature does 
not provide the view, it is possible to manufacture 
it, as the other examples shown here demonstrate. 
Such effects depend on the most intimate sort of 
collaboration between the designer of the house and 
the landscape architect, and require more than a 
nominal investment in spiky evergreens." They pay 
off, however, in a feeling of spaciousness that can 
make a compact house seem twice its true size. 


The big glass areas and movable walls used in 
modern houses are not only capable of bright- 
ening old types of rooms; they are creating 
entirely new types. Thus the space above ( I 59) 
is neither a porch nor an inside room, but a 
combination of both. View 160 shows a 
glazed passage that dojjbles as a porch, view 

161 an outdoor living space connected to a 
bedroom by a sliding door. On the facing page, 

162 and 163 show a sunporch that can be 
completely open or completely enclosed, view 
164 a modern version of the old-fashioned 
"conservatory," with a glazed roof. Connected 
by sljding doors to a glass-walled living room, 
this room won the grand prize in a contest for 
new uses of glass in building construction. 








f*' v 


The logical final development of the glazed, sliding 
wall is the living room that becomes a porch simply 
by pushing away the wall, and becomes a room 
again by closing it. This arrangement makes lots of 
sense, since one set of furniture serves for both out- 
door and indoor living, and there is no need to put 
away chairs and tables in bad weather. The three 
rooms shown here are all true part-time-porches in 
which at least one full wall can be removed com- 
pletely. With present day equipment and weather- 
stripping, such walls slide easily and can be made 
virtually draftproof. In winter, they can be opened 
slightly for ventilation. 




An obvious objection to the use of glazed walls in 
built-up areas is lack of privacy. These designs show 
how it can be avoided. Two of the houses (I 7 1-173 
and 172) employ almost Identically the same 
scheme: a continuous glass wall facing a garden en- 
closed by a high fence; in one case, to permit free 
passage of air, the fence is built like a Venetian blind 
Standing on end. Another solution is the "patio" 
plan in which the rooms themselves enclose the 
garden, as in 174. Views 1 75 and 176 show two 
more versions of the walled-garden idea, one for a 
small lot, the other for a large one. 



all ic 

When an entire wall, or a large part of a wall is 
made of glass, there is no necessity to use ventilator 
sash over the whole area. Big pieces of fixed glass 
are better looking, easier to clean (when on the 
ground floor), easier to make weathertight, and cost 
less than a complex assembly of movable windows. 
One of the simplest and most dramatic schemes is 
to use floor-to-ceiling panes of plate glass (set in the 
type of frame used for store windows) over most 
of the area, supplemented by metal sash, as in 177 
and 178. And, where fixed glass is used, there ar 
convincing arguments for using louvres rather tha 
glass in the part of the window given to ventilation, 
as in 181 and 182. 





,n lighting a large roc., a given amount of glass se 
high in the walls is twice as effective as the same 
Lnt at or be,ow eye .eve,, .none story houses 

it is often possible to place such windows over the 
1L of the room, as in .83 and ,86 and thus 

flood the entire interior with daylight of equam- 

tensity. Skylights can a,so perform a valuable ^ fun, 
tion in bringing the lighting in the intenor pars of 

the house up to the standard of the outs,de room. 
View 187, for example, shows an inside cornd 

in this way. Had this skylight been omitted, t 
corridor might have seemed excessively gloomy ,n 
relation to other parts of the house. 



In hot weather, the big windows used in modern 
architecture would admit entirely too much sun- 
shine if they were not protected in some way. Com- 
monest solution for this problem is the use of 
"hoods," or permanent sunshades proportioned so 
as to cut out most of the summer sun while letting 
in as much as possible in winter a device which 
works to perfection on windows facing south. Two 
such hoods, one used to form a porch, are shown 
in. pictures 188 and 189. An idea of the accuracy 
with which they operate can be obtained from I 90 
and 191, which show the outside of one "solar" 
house in midsummer and the inside of another in 
midwinter. In the second view, notice how far into 
the room the low winter sunshine penetrates, bring- 
ing heat that cuts fuel bills substantially. 



S** t*. 




WINDOWS HAVE been in houses almost as long as 
there have been houses. There have been windows 
of ice and rock crystal and mica and nothing at all. 
The most commonplace, the most completely fa- 
miliar part of a house that there is, the window 
seemed to most people so simple a thing that gen- 
erations went by before it occurred to anyone to 
do any thinking about it. And when they finally 
began to think, they discovered some very strange 
and wonderful things. 

Did you know that the window out of which 
you look to see if Johnny is coming home from 
school, or if the milkman is coming by with that 
extra quart that window so clear and perfectly 
transparent is really as opaque as a solid slab of 
armor plate? Did it ever occur to you that this 
fragile sheet is daily throwing back a bombardment 
of rays of all sizes and shapes? 

It was only when some scientifically minded 
people began to look at the common pieces of 
glass we have taken for granted for so long that 
they found they were dealing with an amazingly 
complex apparatus, built like a dam with countless 
billions of tiny sluice gates which unerringly 
opened and closed to let some things through and 
to keep others out. 

When the scientists got through, a few architects 
in various countries began piecing together the bits 
of data, wading through formulas and graphs and 
other scientific jargon, to find out what this meant 
in terms of buildings. None of these architects 

was particularly important or financially success- 
ful, and this was probably because their curiosity 
far outweighed their business acumen. While their 
fellow professionals were saying in an unconscious 
parody of Gertrude Stein, "A window is a window 
is a window," these people were saying "Is it?" and 
"What is it?" and "Why is it?" 

One of the little tidbits they picked up, a typical 
and apparently unrelated scientific fact, is that 
glass is opaque to low temperature radiation; that 
is, while wide open to most of the heat of the sun, 
it is closed to the infra-red waves sent off by any 
object cooler than a steam radiator. This is one 
reason why the greenhouse makes such a good heat 
trap. It is also the reason why the solar house is 
possible. But glass, as everyone knows, is also 
opaque to the bulk of the ultra-violet rays. In other 
words, the average window is a very narrow gate 
through which only a little more than visible light 
can pass. Attempts to widen it have been pretty 
expensive or not very successful, but location of 
the gate in the spectrum can be shifted. In terms of 
the home, what does this mean? 

Some years ago a product called Vita Glass was 
put on the market. It was intended to do every- 
thing window glass did and let in ultra-violet as 
well. This was an attempt to "widen the gate" 
to let in a broader slice of the spectrum. It was a 
good idea. People in homes glazed with Vita Glass 
would have had fewer germs to contend with and 
might have gotten a coat of tan in the bargain. But 



it never got down to a price home builders could 

The windows in your car are not made of single 
sheets of glass, but are a sandwich with a trans- 
parent plastic sheet as the filler. The virtue of these 
windows is that they are shatterproof. It is rarely 
that a home builder feels the need to go to extra 
expense for this reason, but we ran across a large 
house in Pittsburgh a while ago whose playroom 
windows were equipped in this manner. A far more 
useful filler is air, whose insulating properties are 
well known to anyone who has put up a storm 
sash. The advantage of the "air-glass sandwich" is 
that it removes the need for the extra sash. Double 
glass is widely used in modern trains. One such 
product available for homes is "Thermopane," a 
sealed package consisting of two thicknesses of 
glass with a quarter-inch air space. It costs a little 
more than twice as much as a single sheet of glass, 
but less than a window plus storm sash. The small 
air space, by the way, provides quite as good insu- 
lation as a much bigger gap would. 


Even more important than glass is the kind of 
window in which it is installed. There are many 
types, some comparatively new and unfamiliar, 
others which have been in use for centuries. The 
type of window selected for a house has to do with 
much more than operating characteristics and 
price, for windows, more than any other element 
in the house, set its "style." Not many of us realize 
this, but the way we identify houses as Colonial, 
English, French Provincial, and so on, is pretty 
much by the window pattern, which is different in 
each case. Similarly, an outstanding characteristic 
of the modern house is not a flat roof or some new 
material, but the radically different manner in 
which the windows are set. 

The double-hung window is common in our 
country because it is cheap, simple to install, and 

practically foolproof mechanically, since all it has 
are pulleys and sash weights (or balances) and a 
handle. It is also a pretty good ventilator, because 
it can be opened from the top or bottom or both. 

The second important type of window is the 
casement. Casements trace their ancestry back to 
the great houses of medieval England. This doesn't 
mean that the casement was invented in England, 
but it does relate to a certain type of medieval 
building, just as the double-hung window is a 
fundamental design element in the architecture of 
our own Colonial period. 

The casement, too, has its difficulties. The in- 
swinging type gets in the way of curtains and pro- 
jects awkwardly into the room. When the window 
swings out, it tends to disintegrate if it is wood or 
rust if it is steel. The out-swinging type is most 
common, because it is easiest to make weather- 
tight. Obviously, a window that closes against a 
frame from the outside is less likely to let rain in 
than one that closes from inside. However, if you 
want to use screens which is something they 
never worried about in medieval England you 
have to take the screen down to get at the window 
or use a mechanical operator. 

The casement has two big advantages. One is 
that it can be opened for 100 per cent ventilation. 
In fact, with the offset hinges that enable the win- 
dow to swing out in front of the face of the build- 
ing, casements can give better than 100 per cent 
ventilation, as the projecting wings act like sails 
that scoop up passing breezes. 

The next two types, which are becoming some- 
what more common, are nothing more than 
double-hung and casement windows laid on their 
sides. The horizontally sliding window has the 
advantage of fitting into the long, low lines char- 
acteristic of the modern house. It needs no pulleys 
or weights, and one type on the market can be 
removed for easy cleaning. 

The awning-type window has a casement hinge 
at the top instead of the side. Awning-type win- 


dows look very pretty, indeed, when banked up in 
a big wall of glass; they cast pleasant shadows on 
the exterior surfaces, and they help keep out the 
rain. With these windows, as with casements, there 
is a screening problem, because screens can only 
work with some type of mechanical operator. 

So much for the standard types of windows. 
They all have one feature in common : in addition 
to providing a view and letting in light, they all 
serve as ventilators. This dual function ventila- 
tion plus light has been taken for granted for so 
long that few people think about it. But among the 
architects who have been re-examining every part 
of the house an interesting question has arisen: 
why do windows have to fill this dual function? 
The question is worth asking, because if the answer 
is that they don't have to, you have a freedom in 
handling the outside walls of your house you 
would never have believed possible. 

Let us say, for example, that you would like to 
have the outside wall of one room entirely glass, 
and by entirely, we mean from wall to wall and 
from floor to ceiling. Now, if this glass screen had 
to be made out of windows windows, that is, 
which could be opened and closed it would be 
expensive, complicated to build, and also clumsy- 
looking, because the frames required by sash 
weights or hinges are thick. If, on the other hand, 
you accept the idea that ventilation and lighting 
do not necessarily have to be taken care of by the 
same unit, you can build a handsome, inexpensive 
glass wall composed of one or two big sheets of 
plate glass, like a shop window, or a larger number 
of panes of sheet glass, which costs less. 

Ventilation then becomes a problem to be solved 
by itself. It could be done mechanically by turning 
on a blower which would push fresh air through 
registers into the room and take it out through 
other registers. During the winter when heat is re- 
quired, this is what happens anyway. 

There is another solution, however, which a few 
architects have found even more intriguing: the 

arrangement of fixed glass to let in the light and 
view, and smaller windows or louvers to let in the 
air. Combinations of movable and fixed windows 
are not new. The louver idea is still unfamiliar, 
however. Louvers can be arranged so that they 
look like shutters on each side of the window, or 
they can be installed as long, narrow slots directly 
underneath the sill. It doesn't matter too much 
how they are placed as long as they let in a suffi- 
cient volume of air to ventilate the room properly. 


The great virtue of the divided system of lighting 
and ventilation is that it makes possible very large 
windows glass walls, in fact without undue ex- 
pense for construction or weatherproofing. It is, 
therefore, a device which contributes toward 
greater freedom in design than we have had hith- 
erto. Whether the ventilating element is a louver, 
window, or door is not important: the freedom is 
there. But what about big windows? Have you 
ever heard anyone say, "It must be dreadful to 
live in one of those modernistic houses ! Think how 
all that light must hurt your eyes!" 

Maybe you have felt this way, too. But did you 
ever hear anyone say, "It must be perfectly dread- 
ful out of doors where all that light hurts your 

The answer, of course, is not to be found in the 
quantity of light, but in the way in which light is 
used. A room with just one small window in a solid 
wall can be very hard on the eyes, not because 
there is too much light, but because the contrast 
between the brilliant patch of glass and the dim 
surroundings is almost unbearable. In such interi- 
ors, to which all of us have been exposed at one 
time or another, the light shoots in through the 
window as if from the mouth of a cannon, and its 
impact can be comparably unpleasant. So, strange 
as it may seem on first thought, the more windows 
a room has always assuming that these windows 



have been properly distributed by a designer who 
knows what he is about the softer and more 
pleasant the lighting will be. 

It is the modern architects, and their eternal 
curiosity about things everyone else has taken for 
granted, that has brought up the whole subject of 
daylighting in connection with the home. As in so 
many other instances, they have learned what the 
problems and solutions are from other types of 
buildings, notably factories and schools. In fac- 
tories daylighting is a major design factor, as it 
has an appreciable effect on worker efficiency, 
profit and loss. In schools there have been other 
considerations: the well-being of the pupils de- 
pends to so great an extent on adequate day- 
light that there are state laws which control the 
minimum size of windows. These laws also fix the 
height of the top of a window, since it has been 
found that light which comes in through the top 
of a window is far more useful than that which 
enters at the bottom. Light from the bottom is 
mostly glare while top light is soft, usable illumi- 
nation. In house design this fact is important. 

At the beginning of this book there were two 
chapters devoted almost exclusively to the prob- 
lems involved in designing a living-room. Not all 
of the problems were dealt with, however, for we 
might approach the design of this room on the 
basis of daylighting, too. 

Let us assume, therefore, that we are continuing 
the design of the living-room, and that the instruc- 
tions given the architect demand that the lighting 
be so worked out that on an average day one could 
read or write comfortably anywhere in it. The first 
thing he would do would involve the creation of 
a window starting from a sill four or five feet from 
the floor, going up as close to the ceiling as possi- 
ble, and extending from wall to wall. In other 
words, the upper half of the wall would be a win- 
dow. You wouldn't like this window, and neither 
would the architect for that matter, because the 
connection between interior and garden would be 

lost, and the view would be spoiled, since it could 
only be seen when one was standing up. In prac- 
tice, therefore, the big window extends much far- 
ther down towards the floor. But this is done for 
considerations other than daylighting. 

If the room were built at this stage of the design 
with a continuous high window on one side, the 
result would not be pleasant, because all the light 
would be coming in from the same direction. 
Shadows would be cast, and the illumination 
would fall off sharply as one moved away from the 
window wall. At the opposite wall it would drop 
to one-tenth its initial value, which means that the 
instructions given the architect would not be car- 
ried out. The next step, therefore, is to open this 
opposite wall, too. Now the situation is vastly im- 
proved: illumination is far more even, and the 
room is infinitely pleasanter. But this procedure 
has an important effect on the plan. Few houses 
have living-rooms with both long walls exposed on 
the outside. Usually one side has other rooms up 
against it. Here modern architecture can come to 
the rescue. The characteristic long, narrow plan 
with the living-room at one end can solve the prob- 
lem, or, if this doesn't work out conveniently, the 
living-room ceiling can be raised and a band of 
clerestory windows installed. 

A clerestory window is nothing more than a high 
window which occurs where roofs of differing 
levels come together. The old Gothic cathedrals 
are full of such windows in the walls between nave 
and aisles, and much of their atmosphere is due to 
this lighting device. It can be used in homes in con- 
junction with either pitched or flat roofs. The 
clerestory has many advantages: for one thing, it 
means that the living-room must be higher than 
other rooms, something most people like anyway; 
for another, it provides the balanced lighting we 
are looking for without the need to plan the room 
with both long walls exposed. In Taliesen, the 
home of Frank Lloyd Wright, there are many 
rooms with windows high up under the roof, and 


they are extraordinarily effective decoration. When 
the sun gets around to them, shafts of light stream 
through, giving the interiors a wonderfully "alive" 
quality owing to the changes of lighting as the sun 

moves across the sky. 


The living-room we have tentatively arrived at, 
with large, continuous glass areas on one side and 
a clerestory band on the other, is unusual in ap- 
pearance compared to ordinary rooms, but it has 
one advantage never possessed by a conventional 
interior: since the light is good everywhere, furni- 
ture can be placed wherever you please. A desk or 
favorite easy chair does not have to be jammed up 
against a small window to be usable, and mother's 
sewing table can be next to the fireplace if she 
wants it there. If our living-room has little resem- 
blance to conventional interiors, it shows an as- 
tonishing similarity to the wonderful classrooms 
architects have been installing in schools on the 
West Coast. 

The problem given our hypothetical architect 
provision of good reading light everywhere in the 
room presents an absolute necessity in the case 
of schools, for desks are all over the classroom 
area and each child must be able to see properly. 
School architects began to approach the problem 
in much the same manner as we have discussed the 
living-room, and tests with light meters soon 
showed that the theory of balanced daylighting 
could be a practical reality. This is what happened 
in California. To the standard windows on one 
wall, a new set on the opposite wall was added. 
This new set was a high clerestory band, since 
there was always a corridor along one side of the 
room. Variations were tried. In one case, the clere- 
story, instead of being over an outside wall, was 
over the center of the classroom ; this was an im- 
provement, for it brought the light in closer to 
where it was needed. In another instance, the clere- 

story was wrapped around two walls; this helped 
even more. The result in these modern schools 
was that the standards attained by the new window 
arrangements w.ere higher than those established 
for the best artificial lighting. Let us note here one 
very important point: all these architects were 
doing the same thing. They were scrapping the 
conventional window pattern in favor of a new 
approach based on getting the right amount of 
daylight exactly where it was needed. Does this 
sound coldly functional and completely unlivable? 
Parents who have seen the new California schools, 
and visitors to homes such as Taliesen, do not 
think so. As a matter of fact, they are invariably 
captivated by the warmth and beauty of these new 

This kind of "daylight engineering" for that is 
what it really amounts to has much to offer build- 
ings of all types, but its benefit to houses is par- 
ticularly great. Think of what it would mean, for 
example, to have a kitchen in which all of the work 
surfaces, even those in the most remote corners of 
the room, were bright, easy to work at, and clean. 
Imagine what it would be like always to be able 
to find things in the closets without putting on a 
light, to step out of the house on a bright summer 
day without having to squint and shield your eyes 
for several minutes while you become accustomed 
to the light, to be able to see with equal ease in 
any part of the interior. 

If houses could be built without roofs, and rooms 
without ceilings, these qualities would be very easy 
to achieve. For our homes would then be lighted 
by the most nearly perfect lighting surface we know 
anything about the vault of the sky. This surface, 
which would cost hundreds of thousands o dollars 
to duplicate over the extent of a small factory, is 
capable of lighting the top of a desk or work table, 
shielded from direct sunlight, to a brightness of 500 
to 1500 foot-candles throughout most of the day 
most of the year five to fifty times the intensity 
produced by the best artificial lighting installa- 



tions. The sky provides even, shadowless illumina- 
tion from all directions, and particularly from 
above, where it is of the most value for seeing pur- 
poses and least objectionable from the standpoint 
of glare. It costs nothing to build and nothing to 
operate, and is available to all but the most be- 
nighted city dwellers in practically unlimited 

The trouble is that whenever we build we invari- 
ably construct a lid that cuts out 80 to 90 per cent 
of the sky vault. We do this not only because we 
have to have something to keep out the snow and 
rain, but also because this is the only practicable 
shield against direct sunlight, which is far from 
ideal for illuminating purposes. 

Fortunately, however, it is not necessary to use 
more than a small portion of the sky for thoroughly 
satisfactory lighting; as a matter of fact, a good 
deal less than 20 per cent will do a perfectly good 
job. In England, where daylight is more appreci- 
ated because there is less of it, engineers have 
figured out that as little as 2 per cent of the sky 
vault is capable of producing acceptable illumina- 
tion within a room. This quantity is based on a 
standard of illumination described quite graph- 
ically as the "grumble point." This point is nothing 
more nor less than the one at which most people 
will get up and turn on the lights because of insuffi- 
cient daylight. Obviously, when this happens about 
noon on a clear day, when there is every reason to 
expect plenty of light from the windows, you have 
a condition of less-than-adequate daylighting. 

This is a very low standard indeed. For really 
good light, suitable for close work, such as sewing, 
it is necessary that at least 5 per cent of the whole 
area of the sky be visible from the point where the 
work is being done. This is enough to produce 
about twenty foot-candles of illumination at four 
in the afternoon on a dull December day, and 
about ninety foot-candles at noon in midsummer. 
In the average room it is the kind of light you get 
within a few feet of a good-sized window pro- 

vided the upper part of the window is not ob- 
structed by a shade or curtain. 

How, then, do we get this kind of lighting 
throughout the house, or at least wherever it is 
really needed? First, by raising the tops of the win- 
dows until they are flush with the ceiling, which 
makes a better looking window and is not hard to 
do with modern structural methods. Second, in 
large rooms, by raising the height of the ceiling 
itself. A good rule is that no part of the room 
should be more than one and a half times the 
height of the ceiling away from a window wall. To 
illustrate: if the ceiling is eight feet high, no part of 
the room should be more than twelve feet away 
from a window wall. Third, and most important, 
by spotting clerestory windows, skylights and other 
small, high openings where they are needed to light 
the interior portions of the house. 

Naturally, good lighting cannot be the only con- 
sideration in the design of a house, and such de- 
vices must be used with skill and discretion to 
avoid an awkward hodgepodge of dormers and 
skylights. In the hands of a skilled modern archi- 
tect, however, openings of this type can become 
real design features, inside as well as out, and fre- 
quently offer other advantages as well. A prime 
example of this is the type of inside kitchen which 
Frank Lloyd Wright has used in many of his 
houses, where the ceiling is raised well above the 
general roof line and ringed on four sides with 
small windows which serve as excellent exhaust 
ventilators in addition to letting in large quantities 
of diffuse overhead light. Small, high-up dormers 
can be used with equally good effect in living- 
rooms and over interior hallways; and in flat- 
roofed houses, perforations in the ceiling, capped 
by inconspicuous stock skylights for weather pro- 
tection, offer similar advantages. 

A few years before World War II this last device 
was used to produce one of the handsomest and 
best lighted rooms in the world: the reading-room 
of a library designed by Alvar Aalto, Finland's 


greatest architect. The ceiling of this room which 
is very large and very high, is perforated with 
scores of regularly spaced cylindrical openings 
deep enough to exclude the angular rays of the sun 
while admitting quantities of light from directly 
overhead. This is the only light the room receives, 
and it is almost ideal illumination perfectly even 
throughout the whole area, completely diffuse and 
almost directionless, and absolutely without glare. 
A person lying on his back on one of the work 
tables would see at once that this arrangement ob- 
serves the first and only rule of good daylighting: 
that a large percentage of the sky be visible from 
the point where light is needed. The ordinary vis- 
itor, however, is conscious only of the soft, all- 
pervading quality of the light, and the almost per- 
fect working conditions provided. 


Alvar Aalto's library brings up another impor- 
tant daylighting problem the need for means to 
control light at the openings which admit it. In the 
Aalto skylights control was provided by the design 
of the units themselves, which were ingeniously 
shaped to exclude direct sunlight. The same effect 
can also be achieved in properly oriented skylights 
of the familiar "north light" variety, and in clere- 
story and dormer windows facing in the same di- 
rection. Most windows, however, must also be used 
to provide outlook and let in the winter sun, and 
therefore require control devices of the flexible 
type. Even where shades or blinds are not needed 
to filter direct sunlight, some means must be pro- 
vided for covering big areas of glass at night, both 
for privacy and for the sake of appearance. 

The shades, curtains, and draperies which ob- 
scure the meager windows of the conventional 
house were originally put up in an unsuccessful and 
never-ending effort to overcome the effects of poor 
daylighting. The ordinary roller-type shade, for 
example, is usually pulled down to cover the up- 
per part of the window in order to conceal the sky, 

which is too bright to look at with comfort from a 
badly lighted room. Since this makes the room 
even darker, curtains are added to screen at least 
partially that portion of the glass which remains 
exposed. After the curtains come draperies, and 
after the draperies, over-drapes, and so on, ad 
infinitum. These items not only effectively shut out 
most of the light, but also reduce the view to a 
bull's eye about twelve inches square in the center 
of the lower part of the "window." 

Modern architecture not only has no sympathy 
for clutter of this kind it has no need for it. From 
a really well-lighted room a generous patch of sky 
is as comfortable and interesting a part of the view 
as it is from under your favorite shade tree. This, 
in fact, is one of the things which make such rooms 
so much a part of the out-of-doors: the sensation 
of sitting in them is so much like that of being out- 
side. But modern windows do have a real need for 
flexible, easily manipulated coverings of various 
kinds, both outside and inside the glass. This need 
is best approached on a functional basis. 

One of the prime functions of most such con- 
trols is to filter or exclude direct sunlight. In the 
chapter on solar heating we describe how perma- 
nent, external "hoods" or other projections may be 
used to keep the summer sun from entering large 
windows, but this device is at its best only on south 
walls and may not provide all of the control de- 
sired in late summer when the sun is low but still 
hot. Moreover, such projections do nothing at all 
to temper the glare of the winter sun, which enters 
at a low angle and, pleasant as it is at certain 
times, may be definitely objectionable at others. 

In discussing the best means for controlling sun- 
light, it is necessary to sort out a number of 
threads, all of which begin at a common point but 
which lead in opposite directions. Controls for a 
south window, protected from the summer sun by 
an outside hood or roof overhang, are very differ- 
ent from those needed by a west window facing the 
full glare of the afternoon sun in hot weather. In 



the first instance, the problem is merely to diffuse 
and soften the light; in the second, what is needed 
is something that will completely exclude sun heat 
and at the same time permit the window to func- 
tion as a ventilator. 

In the case of the protected south window, inside 
controls such as curtains and shades (whose true 
function is to diffuse and filter sunlight) will do a 
good job, as will inside Venetian blinds, which have 
the advantage of blocking the direct rays while re- 
flecting a great deal of light up against the ceiling 
and deep into the room. In the case of the west 
window, outside controls such as awnings or ex- 
terior Venetian blinds are needed. 

In the more recently-built commercial buildings, 
where air-conditioning includes cooling as well as 
heating, engineers have discovered a very discon- 
certing series of facts, which hinge once again on 
the terrific potency of solar heat. For example, if 
the west side of an office building is mostly win- 
dows (and it has to be; otherwise you couldn't rent 
space on that side of the building), the "load" on 
the cooling system increases tremendously. The 
same is true of the south side unless projecting 
hoods are used, and to a smaller degree, of the east 
side. In other words, the nicest window found it- 
self in the position of being the air-conditioning 
engineer's worst enemy, and the owner's, too, be- 
cause it meant having to get rid of unwanted heat. 
Immediately people began wondering what could 
be done. 

The engineers solved the whole thing very 
quickly and easily. "Leave out the windows," they 
said. And pretty soon the magazines and Sunday 
supplements were full of all sorts of idiotic predic- 
tions about the building of the future which would 
have no windows and in fact might even be built 
underground so that it wouldn't get in people's 
way while they were walking around. 

In factories, to be sure, the windowless building 
became a reality. Many of our biggest war plants 
have no windows or skylights in them at all. But 

here the problem is somewhat different, because in 
a big factory which covers dozens of acres, the 
workers can't look out because they are too far 
from the outside walls. Therefore the question of 
view becomes pretty academic. 

The more rational solutions proposed trapping 
the sun before it could get through the window. 
This is why we mentioned exterior Venetian blinds. 
You see, if the sun's radiant heat gets through the 
window, the damage is done. It doesn't matter 
whether there are blinds inside the window or not. 
The heat is already in the room and must then be 
disposed of by the cooling system. If the sun is 
trapped before it passes through the windows, then 
it never does get inside the room and therefore 
never becomes a problem. 

Trapping the sun has made further changes in 
what we normally consider to be just a plain, ordi- 
nary window. In Brazil, for example, they have 
built strange and wonderful skyscrapers which on 
the sunny side resemble nothing so much as a huge 
egg crate. The north face of the building (south to 
us) is built not like a flat wall with windows in it, 
but like a waffle-shaped series of horizontal and 
vertical baffles. In New York City there is a town 
house where the windows are covered with mov- 
able horizontal fins, which do a very good job of 
giving light and privacy to the interiors without 
letting the sun in to disrupt the air-cooling system. 

If the exterior blinds are made of aluminum or 
some other highly reflective metal, they will work 
particularly well, for then they will reflect the sun's 
heat the way a mirror reflects light, and no heat at 
all will be absorbed. In other words, the blinds 
themselves won't become warm and thus warm the 
air coming through them into the building. 


So much for controlling sunlight. What about 
some of the other control problems? What, for in- 
stance, about controlling the neighbors? How can 


you have big windows and still retain a little 

The answer to this question is partly a matter of 
planning and partly a matter of the sensible use of 
curtains and drapes. In the picture section which 
accompanies this chapter you will find a number 
of examples of houses in built-up areas which have 
used enormous glass surfaces with, if anything, even 
more privacy than the conventional house usually 
gets. There is nothing remarkable about the vari- 
ous ways this has been done. In one instance the 
architect solved the problem by building a high 
fence around the garden in other words, by mov- 
ing the "curtain" out to the lot line. If this seems 
extreme, remember that it is rarely necessary to 
build a wall all around the garden to accomplish 
the purpose. A single wall jutting out from the 
house at right angles to the window will usually do 
the trick, and at the same time provide a back- 
ground for planting. Often planting alone will be 
enough. In some cases putting the windows in the 
right places (vertically as well as horizontally) will 
be all that is needed to avoid a "goldfish bowl" 

Whether or not these things are done, you will 
still want curtains and probably drapes to cover 
the window glass at night, and to take care of those 
times when you would like to feel a little shut in. 
As a matter of fact, there is nothing better looking 
than a really big window with a handsome, barely 
translucent drapery half drawn. Far from proving 
the big window a "failure" (as has sometimes been 
argued), such a use of draperies to fit the time of 
year and the mood of the occupants of the house 
serves to demonstrate one of the biggest advan- 
tages of the true window- wall: big windows are the 
only kind that can be made large and small as you 
see fit; small ones have to stay that way unless you 
want to call in a carpenter or chop away the wall 
yourself with an ax. 

Earlier in this chapter we mentioned the use of 
double glass to reduce the tendency of heat to leak 

through ordinary windows, at a prodigious rate in 
comparison with modern insulated walls. Double 
glass reduces this heat loss by about one-half, but 
still leaves a lot to be desired. Here again is an op- 
portunity for window controls to be functional as 
well as decorative. A good drapery, lined and in- 
terlined with heavy material, is an investment 
which any householder who wants large windows 
can well afford, since it will pay for itself in reduced 
fuel bills long before it wears out. Provision for 
draperies of this kind in the original plans of the 
house will permit them to be pulled entirely free of 
the window in the daytime and to cover all or most 
of the window at night, thus admitting quantities 
of solar heat in the daytime, and reducing heat 
losses substantially when the traffic is all in the 
other direction. 

Pre-planned draperies are no novelty in modern 
house design and are typical of the extra care and 
thought which go into this type of house. Provision 
of "pockets" where draperies and Venetian blinds 
can be furled so that they do not obstruct the 
glazed area adds little to the cost of a big window 
and much to the satisfaction of using it. In some 
cases, particularly in the case of Venetian blinds 
which are not very handsome when pulled up over- 
head, such pockets are enclosed in the construction 
and out of sight. In others and especially where 
the drapery material is a decorative element in the 
room there are recesses in the wall alongside the 
window opening big enough to accommodate the 
folded material. 

This sums up what we have to say about win- 
dows. They are infinitely more than a "style" fea- 
ture: they can take care of some heating in winter, 
they can give furniture placing infinitely more free- 
dom, they alone can provide a truly intimate rela- 
tionship between garden and house, and they can 
combine the enjoyment of view with the enjoyment 
of privacy. One of the really great contributions of 
the modern house is its bold and generous use of 
glass areas. 




THE STORY OF solar heating offers what is probably 
the best of these peculiar chains of influence which 
are to be seen so often in the development of the 
modern house. When architects in this country and 
Europe began to experiment with new shapes and 
plans and structures for buildings, one of the fea- 
tures which became practically universal was the 
big window, expanded in many instances to the 
point where it became a glass wall. A great many 
reasons were advanced for the introduction of these 
large glass areas. There was the fact, hard to dis- 
pute, that the view when seen through a big win- 
dow is nicer than if seen through a small one. But 
not many houses had good views. Then there was 
the argument, supported by the findings of the 
physiologists, that less eye strain was produced in 
a room with glass walls than in one with just slots 
for windows. It was also the contention, based not 
on scientific fact but on an emotion shared by 
practically everyone, that a room flooded with sun- 
light was far more agreeable than a dark, dingy 

The architects who began building "glass 
houses" thirty or forty years ago had other reasons 
for their seemingly extravagant procedure, reasons 
which stemmed from purely esthetic developments 
all through the field of art, notably in painting. 
They didn't talk about these esthetic reasons to 
their clients because they felt quite rightly that 
if the typical homeowner were going to be sold on 
the idea of installing acres of plate glass in his 

house, he would have to be given a good practical 
reason for doing so. 

It was in the Germany of the Weimar Republic 
that modern buildings were put up in the greatest 
quantities and frequently in the most interesting 
forms. The architects of this period, which included 
most of the 1920's, had a theory about their glass 
buildings which they proceeded to put into effect. 
The theory sounded very good. It was that a long 
building, running north and south, would have its 
longest sides exposed to the east and west. This 
meant, according to the theory, that the east rooms 
would get sun all morning and the west rooms 
would get sun all afternoon. 

Once built, the structures themselves punched 
the theory full of holes. In the first place, the cost 
of heating these buildings was excessive. In the 
second place, the cheerful morning sun varied with 
the seasons. In midsummer there was plenty of 
sunlight coming in from the east, while in mid- 
winter, when the sun rose far to the south, there 
was only a short time in which these rooms re- 
ceived the dubious benefits of their western expo- 
sure. In the third place, people living in the west 
rooms found that for most of the year this exposure 
was practically intolerable. The interiors were blis- 
tered in summer by the late afternoon sun, and the 
strong light coming in at a very low angle was un- 
pleasant and hard to screen out with shades. 

The important thing about these early experi- 
mental buildings was not that they failed but that 


they were trying something new. They were trying 
to bring the house into more intimate contact with 
its natural environment through the use of sun- 
light. One result was that scientists, not architects, 
began to ask questions about what sunlight did do 
and how one should go about getting the maximum 
benefits from it. 


That the sun throws off a great deal of energy has 
been clearly understood for a long time. A phys- 
icist can tell you that the amount of solar energy 
which heats the earth's atmosphere adds up to 
about 430 horsepower per acre. This is a lot of 
energy. The first presentation of these facts that 
made sense in terms of house design came from a 
report published by a committee of the Royal In- 
stitute of British Architects in 1932. The British re- 
port figured out the number of hours of sunlight 
received each day on walls facing the different 
points of the compass. 

Somewhat later the American Society of Heating 
and Ventilating Engineers carried this investiga- 
tion one step further by measuring the amount of 
heat landing on these different walls. True, the 
Society was concerned with the problems of sum- 
mer cooling rather than winter heating, but its 
work called attention to the fact that sunlight on 
outside walls produces substantial quantities of 
heat inside the room. At this point designers began 
to realize that they had a yardstick ready at hand 
by which they could compare solar heat quite ac- 
curately with the amount produced by the furnace. 

Thus, barely ten years ago, a possible justifica- 
tion for the glass wall came into being : if somehow 
this solar energy could be converted into heat in- 
side the house, there would be a way of reducing 
fuel bills. 

The main thing revealed by the British architects' 
study was the reason that the east and west orien- 
tation had not worked. It was because the walls 

which got the most sun in winter faced neither east 
nor west but south. So architects began to think in 
terms of glass walls on the south side, and here 
they made a discovery so simple and so obvious 
that today we wonder why people didn't do some- 
thing about it long before. 

The problem of the house in relation to solar 
heating is a double one. In winter we want to let 
the sun's heat in and in summer we want to keep it 
out. Fortunately, the mechanics of the solar system 
make this very easy. In winter the midday sun is 
very low and in summer it is very high. Thus it was 
possible to install a permanent sun shade which 
projected out over a south window so that in the 
summertime no direct sunlight got inside the 
rooms. In winter the same window, with the same 
sun shade, was flooded with light. This solved the 
problem of how to admit the heat in the winter 
when you wanted it and how to keep it out in the 
summer when it only made trouble. Let us note at 
this point that it also changed the appearance of 
the house because previously it had not been nor- 
mal practice to build sun shades over windows. 

But new questions popped up as fast as the old 
ones were settled. To get the full benefit of sun on 
the south, this wall had to be made almost entirely 
of glass. In the typical Colonial house, one-sixth of 
the wall area, or less, contained windows. The rest 
was solid, and, if it was insulated to boot, this solid 
wall was very effective in keeping the heat in. Once 
the glass wall was accepted, however, it was clear 
enough that the system would function admirably 
so long as the sun was shining, for the amount of 
heat that got in through the glass would be much 
greater than that which leaked out. But what about 
night time and cloudy days? Here it was perfectly 
clear that there would be no gain and all loss, and 
the question to be answered was: would the bal- 
ance sheet at the end of an average winter show a 
bigger fuel bill or a saving? 

A few years ago a student at Columbia Univer- 



sity, Henry Fagin, took precisely this theme for 
his graduate thesis. He considered a solid brick 
wall with plaster and a wall made of a single thick- 
ness of glass. He compared these walls, not to see 
which was the better looking or more durable or 
anything like that; but to find out which kind of 
wall would make a building cheaper to heat. Some 
people, when learning of this study, must have 
thought that he was absolutely crazy, for anyone 
knows that you lose less heat through a brick wall 
than through a single sheet of glass, which has 
practically no insulation value whatever. 

Fagin knew this, too. But he also knew that the 
transmission of heat in a building is a kind of two- 
way street. When the sun beats on the outside 
walls, heat goes into the building. And when it 
isn't heating an outside wall, then heat leaks out. 
The problem Fagin set himself was to find out in 
which direction the traffic, so to speak, was the 
heaviest. Because* if a glass wall let in more heat 
during the day than it could possibly let out during 
the night, there would be a net gain of heat which 
would be reflected in the fuel bills. Then the argu- 
ment of brick versus glass would be settled. 

Fagin found out that if any zone having a 
winter climate similar to that of New York one 
built a house whose south wall was entirely of 
glass, that house would be cheaper to heat (on a 
ten-year average, let us say, since some winters 
have more sun than others) than if there were no 
windows at all on the south wall, with solid brick 
and plaster used to keep the heat in. There are 
parts of the United States where this would not 
be true because of climatic conditions, but these 
parts are few and cover a surprisingly small area. 
One is the section which runs from the shore 
of Lake Erie 200 to 300 miles to the southeast. The 
other is the seaboard of Oregon and Washington, 
notorious for its persistent winter fogs. In virtually 
every other part of the country windows on south 
walls are likely to pay off. 

The modern architects tried a new tack. "Why," 
they asked, "should we calculate only the heat lost 
through this wall of glass on the south side? Why 
not figure out what would happen if the plan of the 
whole house were modified to take full advantage 
of solar heating?" Here the facts of life or rather 
of nature came to the rescue. Few home builders 
wished to put rooms on the north side of the house 
if they could help it, for they knew from experience 
that such rooms were the least comfortable. So a 
shift was made in the plan : the house was stretched 
out so that most of the rooms would face south, 
and for the north side the architect reserved clos- 
ets, bathrooms, stairs, and hallways spaces which 
require no windows at all or fairly small ones. 
Thus the first step was achieved. Window sizes on 
the most exposed of the four walls were cut down, 
but without detriment to the livability of the house. 
On the east side windows were left at about aver- 
age size, since the morning sun is pleasant all year 
round, but on the west side, where summer sun 
heat is the source of extreme discomfort, there 
grew up a tendency to eliminate most of the win- 
dows, or at least to shade them from the sun. The 
sum total of this procedure was that the house be- 
gan to look like a glass house only if it were seen 
from one or two sides at the most, and this is why 
in so many of the more recent modern houses some 
of the views show great expanses of wall undis- 
turbed by any windows whatever. As a final refine- 
ment in the evolution of what people have begun 
to call the solar house, its axis was shifted slightly 
to the west. By this shift the east wall gets a little 
more sun than it used to and so does the north wall 
in the summertime. When World War II broke 
out, there were only a few solar houses in existence 
that demonstrated all of these refinements. Never- 
theless, a workable procedure had been established. 
The solar house began to receive national public- 
ity. But it still posed many an unanswered ques- 


Any housewife knows what the sun does to fab- 
rics. She knows that it will make almost any color 
fade, that it raises the very devil with curtains, 
lampshades, rugs, upholstery fabrics, pictures, and 
even the paint on the walls. For this problem a 
solution has yet to be found. Part of it involves the 
utmost care in selecting materials whose colors are 
closest to being sunproof. Some of it is still waiting 
for the chemists, who will have to develop colors 
more permanent than any found hitherto. The 
glass companies also have a part to play in the de- 
velopment of special materials which will let in the 
sun's heat but screen out those light waves which 
do the most damage to synthetic and natural dyes. 
Some such glasses are already on the market. They 
have a disadvantage in that they are slightly tinted. 
They are usable, however, if they are placed care- 
fully. The simplest solution, however, is probably 
to be found in the dyes themselves, and injudicious 
use of such items as Venetian blinds, which will let 
the sun's heat get through the window while keep- 
ing the direct rays off paint and fabric. 

The most interesting, perhaps, of all the possi- 
bilities of solar heating involves what we might call 
the reservoir principle. This can be illustrated by 
an example. People who live in all-wood houses of 
the solar type have found that they tend to become 
overheated while the sun is shining and to cool off 
almost instantly when the sun goes behind a cloud. 
In houses with concrete floors the reverse happens. 
The floors absorb much of the solar energy while 
the sun is shining, and it may be hours, or even all 
night, before the floor cools down to the point 
where it is no longer giving off a certain amount of 

heat. This happens because the massive concrete 
has a greater capacity than wood for absorbing and 
storing heat. The old tireless cooker was nothing 
more than a practical utilization of this simple 

Here, as in the case of the sun shade, we find 
that the sun is again influencing the design of the 
house in quite an unexpected way. A floor which 
can store the sun's heat during the day and give it 
off during the evening will have an effect, and a 
pretty important one, on the total fuel bill. But use 
of a concrete slab modifies the whole house plan, 
for it tends to force the design to one story rather 
than two and, incidentally, to bring the house into 
much closer contact with the surrounding land- 
scape than it was before. 

This, in the sketchiest possible form, is the story 
of solar heating. It is typical of the very best devel- 
opments in modern house design because it works 
with nature instead of fighting it with gadgets. In 
the process the whole design of the house is modi- 
fied. With the sun shades or overhanging eaves the 
house grows eyebrows, so to speak. Through the 
heavy concrete slab, laid directly on the ground, 
the outdoors and indoors are brought into closer 
contact with each other. Highlighting the impor- 
tance of varying the amount of window area on each 
side of the house, gives each wall its own individual 
character and modifies the plan of the rooms inside 
for the better. From here on in, anyone who plans 
a house without giving serious consideration to the 
operation of the solar house principle is missing 
a wonderful chance to get a better house, a more 
interesting house, and a house that is cheaper to 





So FAR WE have approached the problems of house 
design through specific problems, such as planning 
for storage, meals, relaxation, and so on. In actual- 
ity, when a house is being designed, study of the 
details and the plan as a whole proceed almost 
simultaneously. Whatever is done to an individual 
space, such as a bedroom, has an effect on the 
spaces related to it. Until all the small ideas have 
been merged in a smoothly working over-all plan, 
there can be no house. 

The plan of a house as opposed to the separate 
plans of its individual parts is the result of a com- 
plex process of give and take. It is rare indeed to 
find a house where no compromise has been made 
at any point along the line. Involved as this process 
of fitting and patching may be, however, essentially 
it is not particularly mysterious. Just as the design 
of a closet depends on how much clothing you have 
to put in it, so the working out of the house plan is 
also the result of the operation of equally compre- 
hensible factors. 

First of these is the lot itself, which may be flat 
or steep, regular or irregular. The successful plan 
will treat the house and the lot as a single unit. The 
lot provides the immediate view and space for out- 
door living. Both must be related intimately to the 
house itself. Sunlight, as we have already seen, is 

rapidly becoming an almost equally potent factor. 
An understanding of the benefits of solar radiation 
has had a tremendous influence on planning con- 
cepts, and it has begun to turn the house from a 
squarish box into a long and narrow one so that a 
maximum number of rooms can get the benefits of 
midday sunlight. Almost as important a factor is 
the direction from which the prevailing breezes 
come in summer and in winter. 

Zoning has become a common word in our 
cities. To date, however, few people have tried to 
apply it to the house. In connection with the house, 
all it means is that certain major types of activities 
are grouped for maximum convenience and for 
privacy. A "zoned" house will have one or two 
sleeping areas, isolated as much as possible from 
the noisier rooms. It will have a work center, which 
may also be a part-time living area. It will have a 
service group, including heater, laundry, and pos- 
sibly a portion of the kitchen; and finally it will 
have the general living section, which may include 
outside as well as inside space. 

Still another factor which often forces further 
compromises is the point of access. At some loca- 
tion on the perimeter of the lot there has to be a 
sidewalk to the front door and a drive to the ga- 
rage. Too many home builders persist in consider- 


ing these separately. In today's house and this 
will be even more true in tomorrow's the entrance 
most frequently used is the automobile drive and 
not the pedestrian path. If the two can be merged 
and a service entrance included, planning will be 
immensely simplified, landscape costs will be 
somewhat reduced, and convenience will be en- 

A few decades ago the main rooms of a house 
were invariably placed on the street side. For this 
there were good reasons. Streets were relatively 
safe and quiet. Today the street can offer nothing 
more than noise, gasoline fumes, and danger, and 
there has been a steadily growing tendency, there- 
fore, to reverse the old approach and put the 
living-rooms at the back where they could be tied 
in with the family's private garden. 


The most inexpensive type of medium-sized house 
that can be built is a cube with living-rooms down- 
stairs and sleeping-rooms upstairs. Whenever the 
perimeter of this familiar plan is made larger, costs 
go up. It happens to be an unfortunate fact that all 
of the modern tendencies in house planning, such 
as those listed immediately above, operate to pro- 
duce a house with maximum perimeter. Zoning, 
for example, operates more conveniently with a 
one-story house. So does the intimate relationship 
between rooms and garden, which people are com- 
ing to prefer. The long, narrow plan designed to 
get the most out of solar radiation also increases 
the perimeter of the house. 

At this point there is only one thing for the home 
builder and his architect to do. Maximum economy 
must be balanced with maximum livability. You 
can't have both. Where cost is no consideration, 
there is no problem. Most of us, however, have to 
consider cost, and carefully. Here again you will 
find that compromise is probably the solution. 
Maybe some of the desirable features of zoning 

will have to go by the boards. Maybe only two bed- 
rooms can face south instead of all four. But every 
item making for greater livability should be fought 
for until it is obvious that the budget is nearing the 
breaking point. 

The minimum dogma with which so many plan- 
ners were infected had a short life but a hectic one. 
The results, however, were by no means all bad. 
For one thing, the open plan, with its many vir- 
tues, received a great impetus. For another, archi- 
tects and builders who had been notoriously 
wasteful in the way they spent their customers' 
money began to be somewhat more practical and 
considerate. Nevertheless, the tendency to squeeze 
down the size of the house should be resisted as 
much as the budget will permit. 

A bedroom the size of a third-class steamer 
cabin can be a satisfactory sleeping compartment, 
but a bedroom big enough to be used as a sitting- 
room is nice, too. A large living-room has greater 
flexibility and use potentialities than a small one. 
A separate dining-room, if you can swing it, has 
advantages. Small kitchens can be efficient, but we 
will take a large one any time we are given the 
choice. Small bathrooms, on the other hand, are 
good for very little unless they are used by one per- 
son, and there are few families which can afford 
the extreme luxury of one bath for each member. 
An adequate family bath takes a space of more 
than a hundred square feet, the size of a small 
bedroom. This is good space and it costs good 
money. Once again, convenience will have to be 
balanced against the budget. 

The "space versus money" problem does not 
solve itself with a series of simple rules. The inge- 
nuity of the designer can work wonders here. Take 
one example, a living-room. Let us say that the 
living-room is going to be eleven by sixteen feet. 
This is a small room, but perhaps no more space 
can be afforded. If there just happened to be a 
screened porch alongside the living-room and some 



sliding doors in the walls between, the living-room 
would still be eleven by sixteen but for five or more 
months of the year it might expand easily and 
cheaply to become an enclosed area of twenty by 
sixteen. Where space is at a premium big windows 
can work wonders, for these, used in conjunction 
with low garden walls, trellises, and other cheap 
exterior features, can create the impression that the 
space available is much larger than is actually the 
fact. Right here is where the topnotch architect is 
more than worth his fee, because he can create the 
illusion of additional space without making you 
spend the money to build it. 


At some point in the planning process, this ques- 
tion arises. Rooms have been efficiently planned 
and carefully related to one another. The entrance 
is in the right place, the quiet rooms are off by 
themselves, the view and sunlight have been taken 
care of but what is it going to look like? The con- 
ventional design approach can completely wreck a 
good house plan at this stage, if you let it. And pre- 
conceived notions of the proper appearance of the 
house seen from the outside have very little to do 
with a plan worked out to meet the requirements of 
modern living. Up to this point we have advocated 
compromise as a desirable, even necessary expedi- 
ent. Now our advice is the reverse. Do anything 
but compromise. Let the house look the way it 
really is. If your lot is a hillside and common sense 
demands that you put the garage in the attic and 
the bedrooms two floors below, don't fret because 
this is a violent departure from grandmother's Co- 
lonial farmhouse. Of course it is, but you aren't 
grandmother. If everyone who comes to visit you 
arrives by car, don't make the architect shove in a 
front door in the center of the house just because 
that is the way all the other houses in the neighbor- 
hood are equipped. 

Preconceived ideas are poison. It is a pretty safe 
rule that if a planning solution is thoroughly work- 
able it is not going to be difficult to design an ex- 
terior which will be agreeable in appearance. It 
may be unconventional. Maybe the bathrooms 
will have big windows instead of little ones. Maybe 
the kitchen will be next to the front door instead 
of the back door. Maybe it won't even look like a 
house at all to those who are accustomed to sym- 
metrical fronts with two shutters on every window. 
Nevertheless, in its personal, modern way, it will 
be a good-looking house. 

For the modern architect who knows his trade, 
planning and design, building and site, house and 
family, all form a single package. The product he 
creates is a live thing. It fits the people for whom 
it was designed, it expresses the time they live in 
and, above all, it works, psychologically as well as 
physically. It does all of these things because it was 
conceived in a creative manner and not taken out 
of a copybook. Behind the finished product is a 
flexible, inquiring attitude. Everything in such a 
house makes sense. It may have walls of stainless 
steel or plywood, or they may be of the rough- 
hewn masonry used in the neighborhood for hun- 
dreds of years. For the modern architect these 
choices are incidental and not basic. For him there 
are rules but they are fundamental rules: the fam- 
ily and its ways of living dictate the plan, the plan 
determines the exterior, and the exterior responds 
at the same time to the latest developments of in- 
dustrial technology and the most ancient of local 
traditions. The modern house is a good house be- 
cause it is a "natural" house. Its outstanding virtue 
is that it is a genuine response to real needs, and 
its appearance has the authentic quality common 
to all genuine articles. If it still looks strange to 
you, it is only because it is still unfamiliar. But fa- 
miliarity, in this case, you will find, breeds anything 
but contempt. 




The outside of any house inevitably expresses the 
interior even when strenuous efforts are made to 
avoid it. Thus conventional exteriors are expressive 
not only of the tight little plans that go with con- 
ventional design; they also reveal the tortured com- 
promises this approach necessitates. And, since 
modern plans are freer and more imaginative, mod- 
ern exteriors are freer and more imaginative in 
consequence. A bold conception like the cantilev- 
ered living room projecting over the water in 
pictures 193 and 194 may be a determining fac- 
tor; if your tastes run to less dramatic things you 
can expect a quieter looking result. But whatever 
your tastes don't expect a truly modern house to 
look like anything but what it is. 



Back in the early Thirties, when modern archi- 
tecture first began to be used in this country, the 
belief was general that a building couldn't really 
be modern unless it had white stucco walls and 
at least one corner window. This fashion known 
to architects as the International Style is what 
most people think of when they hear the word 
Modern, or "modernistic." But the modern ap- 
proach has become considerably more catholic 
since the days of its importationfrom Europe and 
incidentally, more to the liking of most people. 
International Style houses are still being built, 
however. Those shown here range in time from 
one of the first modern houses built in the U. S. 
(195) to two of the latest (199 and 200). And 
for those who ask, "What would that sort of 
house look like in the New England landscape?" 
we have included one: 198. 







One factor which has relieved the severity of mod- 
ern architecture has been the desire to achieve a 
more intimate relationship with the landscape- 
functionally as well as aesthetically. The International 
Style house was frequently too detached from its 
surroundings: chaste and a little disdainful. In con- 
trast, some of the more recent work is almost 
bawdy in the way it snuggles among the trees and 
against the ground. Views 201, 205 and 206 are 
expressive of this trend. People who hate picnics 
because ants get in the food may prefer a canti- 
levered balcony, but most of us will probably like 
modern better in its homier mood. And, since even 
the best modern house is something you will want 
to get out of on occasion, doing so ought to be made 
as easy as possible. 

2 OS 







21 I 

Architect Frank Lloyd Wright, whose masterpiece. 
Falling Water, is shown on the preceding two 
pages, went on designing contemporary houses in 
the years when most architects were jumping about 
between Cotswold, Tudor and Colonial. One of his 
most recent small houses is shown in 209, and a 
Wright-influenced design by another architect in 
2 1 0. The houses on this page are examples of a dis- 
tinctly different trend: a blend of American wood 
frame construction with the ribbon windows and 
structural-expressionism of European modern. The 
studied unconcern for outside appearance which 
houses 21 I and 212 evidence useful as it was in 
establishing an honest, experimental approach to 
house design has never found acceptance outside 
of a limited circle of modern architects and their 
disciples, and is on the wane. 


Outside appearance depends as much on the funda- 
mental character of the house as on architectural 
treatment. A closely-knit, two-story house will 
have a solid, substantial look regardless of whether 
the walls are light or dark, the roof flat or pitched 
(2 I 6 and 2 1 7). Broad porches and spreading wings 
have hospitable connotations in any design idiom 
(214 and 215). And if you decide that a modest, 
story-and-a-half rectangle meets your needs you will 
get something that looks pretty much like an early 
American farmhouse. The one in 218 and 2 I 9 is 
actually an old farmhouse brought up to date by an 
architect who understood that the excellence of 
this building type lies not in the moldings and win- 
dow muntins, but in its unpretentious approach to 
the problem of enclosing space. 









Even a poor architect has a hard time making a 
spreading, one-story house unattractive. The 
best designers, working in the free style which 
the overthrow of traditionalism has engendered, 
are producing houses of well-nigh universal ap- 
peal. Depending on choice of materials and type 
of roof, the effect can be varied from the trim, 
tailored look of house 220-221 to the pleasant 
romanticism of 222, but both types represent a 
fuller exploitation of present day building tech- 
niques. Views 223 and 224, which show stand- 
ardized houses from a Federal housing project, 
demonstrate the applicability of this approach 
to even the most modest sort of dwelling, pro- 
vided that the details are handled with sufficient 
sensitivity, and view 225 shows the same ver- 
nacular carried over to a larger, two-story design. 




The earliest modern houses all had flat roofs; any- 
thing else was considered an unpardonable conces- 
sion to traditionalism. There was no compelling 
reason for this, however, and in later designs the 
gable roof reappeared, and with it a new type (new, 
at least, in its application to houses) known as the 
"shed" or "monopitch" roof. The shed roof, use of 
which has reached the proportions of a fad among 
modern designers, has much to recommend it. It is 
simple, easy to build, readily ventilated to keep out 
summer sun-heat, and good looking; moreover, it 
makes possible a high, open wall to the south, ad- 
mitting a maximum of winter sunshine while present- 
ing minimum wall surface to the cold winds from 
the north. Three of the houses shown here illustrate 
this design principle, 226-227, 228-229 and 23 I. 
The latter is an example of an old house remodeled 
along "solar" lines. View 230 shows the application 
of the shed roof to a small, one-room-deep design. 



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FOR YEARS THE presses have been grinding out 
books and articles on how to get yourself the house 
you want. There are acres of printed admonitions 
on sound construction, how to save, where to go 
for a building loan, what grade of lumber to buy, 
and so on. We propose to deal rather lightly with 
these matters, partly because they have been cov- 
ered so many times elsewhere, but mainly because 
there is a lot of hocus-pocus involved which 
merely serves to confuse the buyer. 

Today FHA-insured mortgages and their vari- 
ous equivalents have been so standardized as far as 
technical requirements are concerned that the 
chances of getting a jerry-built house are fairly 
slim. Also, the methods of obtaining loans have 
been fairly well publicized, and if by any chance 
you have not run into this kind of information, you 
can get it without any difficulty from any com- 
petent architect, builder, local bank, savings & loan 
association, or from the local FHA office itself. 

Our problem is not primarily a matter of build- 
ing or financing technique. The house whose vari- 

ous parts and characteristics have been discussed 
at length is a pretty unconventional one. The ap- 
proach to its planning also is not typical. Unfor- 
tunately, even if you are now convinced that this 
way of designing a house makes sense, there is 
going to be trouble. 

The building industry as of this moment or , if 
you like, five years from this moment is not an 
industry. It is the clumsiest aggregation of build- 
ers, big and small, manufacturers, handicraftsmen, 
architects, and retail merchandisers one could pos- 
sibly imagine. Even the conventional Cape Cod 
cottage, with its inevitable pair of evergreens flank- 
ing the front door and its turquoise-blue shutters 
with half moons cut into them, is hard to get if the 
house is to be a custom-built job. With the kind of 
house described in this book, these difficulties mul- 
tiply. For one thing, a run-of-the-mill architect is 
not going to produce it for you. He is too en- 
meshed in old-fashioned drafting-room methods 



and prejudices to be capable of working out your 
problems with you on a constructive, forward- 
looking basis. The architects whose work appears 
in this book have, to be sure, already demonstrated 
their ability to create a superior background for 
modern living. But these men constitute a small 
group, and if all the architects in the country like 
them were added to the list at the back of the book, 
it would still be a fairly small one. 

Possibly there -is some young architect in your 
community who has ideas and can carry them out. 
If so, fine. Near the big cities, of course, this prob- 
lem is less serious. It might be added here that 
there is no reason to be afraid of going to see a 
firm of architects simply because it has a first-class 
reputation. Architects as a rule have fee scales 
which do not vary tremendously, and many people 
find to their surprise that the fee charged by the 
best available firm is frequently no greater than 
that asked by its less talented competitors. 

Among the better offices it is fairly standard 
practice to charge at least 10 per cent of the cost 
of a house for architectural design services and 
supervision. A few offices go above this figure, and 
some will go below. There are architects many of 
them who will set their fees at 6 per cent or even 
lower. These, however, do not fit into the group 
whose work appears here. 

Perhaps you would like to know why architects 
have to charge a 10 per cent fee to do a decent job 
on a modern house. A little arithmetic should make 
this fairly clear. Let us assume that a house is going 
to cost around $12,000. This puts the architect's 
fee somewhere in the neighborhood of $1,200. Of 
this amount he will be able to recapture $300 to 
$400, if he is lucky, as payment for his time, which 
may run from three to six months or more. The 
remainder say $850 has got to pay his over- 
head, salaries to draftsmen, and the other expenses 
of his business. In return for this he will camp on 
your doorstep, practically psychoanalyze the fam- 

ily, try to distinguish what you want from what you 
say you want, produce a series of drawings from 
which the house can be satisfactorily constructed 
and equipped, negotiate with bidders to get the 
house within the budget, and arrange for changes 
in the plans and details. And, into the bargain, he 
will probably give advice on furniture, color 
schemes, fabrics, and landscaping, in the event 
that specialists in these fields are not engaged. 
That is why a conscientious architect cannot un- 
dertake to do a reasonably good job on a custom- 
built house for less than 10 per cent. Probably, if 
he were as good a business-man as he is a techni- 
cian and artist, he would charge considerably 

Finding a really topnotch architect, however, is 
only the first of the headaches, and they multiply 
from this point on. Whenever old-line builders are 
confronted with anything that deviates a hair's 
breadth from the way their grandfathers used to do 
things, they let out mighty squawks and proceed 
to jack up the price. They also have a disturbing 
habit of predicting (1) that the house will fall down ; 
(2) that it will leak; (3) that the neighbors will 
lynch you; and (4) that the house could never be 
rented or sold. 

There is another situation that has to be met. 
Rather early in the game your architect will find 
that existing home equipment, whether for light- 
ing, storage, or some other purpose, is not prop- 
erly designed, and he will suggest, frequently with 
good reason, that a certain amount of special work 
be done. This involves dealing with a miscellane- 
ous assortment of electrical supply people, metal 
workers, hardware firms, and others, in an effort 
to concoct something superior to the stock article. 
Some people find that this part of the process of 
designing a modern house is great fun. But even 
so, it is a lot of work, too. 

Up to this point we have been talking about 
some of the problems of getting the house designed 


and built. As it happens, there are other just as im- 
portant hurdles to be surmounted. The first of 
these is money. 


Let us have it understood once and for all that a 
custom-designed and custom-built house costs 
more than a ready-made dwelling. There is the 
matter of the architect's fee, which, as we have 
seen, may be reasonable but is also substantial. 
And the architect is a "must," because there is 
nowhere one can write for a set of stock plans, en- 
closing a check for two or ten dollars. Tomorrow's 
house just isn't produced that way. The special 
equipment and fittings just mentioned will do a 
better job than their ready-made counterparts, but 
they also cost money. If you agree that a one-story 
house has great advantages in many instances over 
a two-story house, it will be found that this, too, 
increases the price, in spite of the fact that some 
savings can be made. Moreover, since the modern 
architect designs so that house and lot form an 
integral unit for indoor and outdoor living, the lot 
has to be reasonably generous more so, of course, 
in the case of a one-story house than a dwelling 
with two floors. 

If your budget will not permit the expenditure of 
extra money for extra amenities, it would be most 
unwise to embark on the venture of having a house 
designed to meet your requirements. It would be 
far better to buy a house ready-made because the 
value for a limited amount of money is greater. 


The pet peeve of almost every house architect is 
that his client walks in and states his requirements 
as follows: "I want four bedrooms, two baths, a 
guest lavatory, maid's room, and two-car garage, 
and the living-room should be at least thirty-two 
feet long. My budget, including your fee, is $8,500. 
This, obviously, is absurd. Yet everyone does it. 

If one walked into an automobile showroom and 
said, "I am looking for a car. I must have 180 
horsepower, five headlights, and a stainless steel 
body. My budget is $850," he would be laughed 
out of the place. Nobody tries this procedure with 
automobiles, because the product is a package at 
a fixed price. Today's house and even tomorrow's 
house, for that matter is not a package: it is a 
crazy quilt, and nobody will really know the price 
down to the last penny until the last bill has been 

The contradictory requirements of budget on 
the one hand and space need on the other have 
wrecked more potentially good houses than any 
other single factor. The architect, who is perennially 
an optimist, tries to please his client by producing 
a minor miracle. But this miracle, like most others, 
rarely comes off, and the result is a botched job 
with which no one is satisfied and for which every- 
one is blamed. 

When the architect is selected and given the job, 
he must be given one set of limitations or another 
but never both. If your budget is $8,500, say so, 
and he will tell you pretty quickly what you can 
reasonably expect to get for that amount of money 
at current prices. If, on the other hand, you can't 
live without six bedrooms and seven baths, tell 
him so, but don't fall into the trap of believing that 
you are competent to attach a price tag at the same 
time, because it takes even the experts a little while 
to figure out what the bill will probably be. 

This is not an attempt to shield the architect. It 
is the home builder who will suffer if he refuses to 
take a reasonable attitude towards this all-impor- 
tant matter of budget procedure. 


Some years ago one of us designed a modern house 
for a Westchester suburb. Before the ground had 
been broken, the neighbors were up in arms. And 
very soon we were called to account. "What do 



you mean," they demanded, "by putting a modern 
house in our community?" (They called it modern- 
istic.) "Don't you realize that you are destroying 
the homogeneity of the entire neighborhood? All 
of these beautiful homes will be seriously depre- 
ciated if you and your clients persist in this insane 

The reply to this was not very polite, but it was 
true. It was pointed out that the neighborhood as 
far as the houses were concerned was anything but 
homogeneous; there was an imitation French 
farmhouse next to a pseudo-Mediterranean villa; 
there were houses cribbed from work of the Geor- 
gian period in England, and there were peculiar 
half-timber jobs that were probably supposed to be 

It was also pointed out even more sharply that 
there was nothing that we as architects could do 
to the neighborhood from the architectural point 
of view that would make it much more chaotic 
than it was already. This argument was greeted 
with shocked silence, and by the time the irate 
householders could think of a reply the house was 
built. They thronged in for the housewarming and 
left a little envious, because they could see that the 
house was amazingly easy to live in and take care 
of, and that the windows were big enough to see 
out of and to let the sun in. 

Most people who have built modern houses in 
the past ten years have had similar experiences, and 
generally the stories have ended equally happily, 
because whatever one's preconceived notions about 
the external appearance of a house, it is hard to 
resist the insidious charm of a well-designed mod- 
ern interior. 

Today the problem is not as great as it used to 
be. The shift in public taste in just the past few 
years has been phenomenal, and it is probable that 
in almost any community the building of a modern 
house would be greeted with more pleased and ex- 
cited interest than with fearful disapproval. Never- 

theless, this is no argument for flaunting one's ec- 
centricities or an architect's screwball notions if the 
same result can be achieved in a reasonably incon- 
spicuous way. In other words, why go out of one's 
way to offend the people with whom one has to 
live? If a house is built in a middle-western com- 
munity where brick is one of the favorite materials, 
there is no particular reason at this stage of our 
technical development for not using brick. If wood 
is in the local tradition, or stucco or adobe or 
whatnot, the same holds true, because the modern 
house is not a rigid package to be produced only 
in one way and no other, but merely a reasonable 
and attractive framework for a family's activities. 
It is particularly important to hang on to this 
last idea, because frequently the temptation to fol- 
low some current fad is well-nigh irresistible. It 
was once believed that a house was not really mod- 
ern unless it was a white cube with a flat roof. Or 
perhaps it had to have round instead of square cor- 
ners. Or maybe the "thing to do" was chromium 
trim smeared all over the main entrance. All this is 
foolishness. Modern design, it is true, does have 
certain characteristics which are peculiar to it. But 
the ones that have lasted have managed to justify 
themselves on a very practical basis. 


Your banker may not agree to this. As a trustee 
of other people's funds, his normally conservative 
tendencies have been intensified a hundredfold. 
Like his friend the builder, he is frequently shocked 
by the newfangled ideas people are getting about 
their houses. Colonial was good enough for his 
father, and it is going to be good enough for him 
and his son, if he has anything to say about it. 
This attitude is a real obstacle to surmount. It has 
been so great a hindrance, in fact, that most of the 
outstanding early modern houses were built by 


wealthy men who could pay for their houses with- 
out applying for a mortgage. 

If your banker is recalcitrant and refuses to make 
a loan on the house designed for you; or, what is 
more likely, if he arbitrarily discounts the value of 
the finished house to something below its actual 
cost so that the mortgage is inadequate, remember 
that he, too, may be open to reason. And remember 
also that he may have competitors who are some- 
what more open-minded. When World War II 
broke out there were already a number of lending 
institutions that had convinced themselves that 
these new types of houses were here to stay, and 
actually constituted a sounder investment than the 
conventional types, because they were less likely to 
get completely out of date before the mortgage had 
been paid off. 

With existing financing arrangements for home 
builders, the banker is no longer quite the free 
agent he used to be. Most mortgages are now 
FHA-insured, which means that not only must the 
banker be convinced that the proposed house is a 
good investment, but so also must the regional 
FHA representative, who is all too often, alas, a 
frightened, petty-minded little bureaucrat whose 
only effective method for handling a difficult situa- 
tion is to say "no." 

In spite of these manifold difficulties, however, a 
lot of modern houses have been built. 


There are almost 35,000,000 dwellings in the 
United States. Maybe you own one of them. If you 
are not entirely happy with it, ownership can be as 
great a hurdle between you and a new house as an 
overconservative banker. 

To the homeowner who is intrigued by the pros- 
pects of better living offered by tomorrow's house, 
several possibilities are open besides the obvious 
one of selling the roof over his head. He can mod- 

ernize its services, such as lighting, plumbing, and 
heating. He can add space, such as a garage storage 
shed or a family room. Or he can do a complete 
remodeling job. 

Which of these alternatives to choose is one of 
the most perplexing problems an owner and archi- 
tect can face. Costs are difficult to figure accurately, 
since old things must be ripped out as well as new 
ones installed. There is a delicate balance to be 
struck between the value of the house after remod- 
eling and that of a new house which uses the pro- 
ceeds of the sale of the old one. Unfortunately, 
there is no way in which a book can give advice to 
an owner confronted with a choice of this kind, 
because each case is specfiic and must be solved on 
its own. This much, however, we can say. You 
should not go ahead without the help of the kind 
of architect you would choose for a new house, and 
it would be wise to include a builder in the planning 
team. Tell them what you want, listen to the archi- 
tect's suggestions, and get the builder to give his 
best guess on the cost. 

There is another way in which this book can help 
anyone thinking of remodeling. The approach that 
has been followed throughout is one of considering 
living problems and workable solutions. These 
problems are the same in any kind of house, and 
most of the solutions apply equally to old and new 
houses. A storage wall, for example, is just as use- 
ful in a remodeled house as a new one; so are im- 
proved lighting, acoustical treatment, insulation, 
built-in furniture, and the other items with which 
we have dealt. This book, therefore, has been de- 
signed to serve as a guide to remodeling as well as 
planning a new home. It would be absurd to sug- 
gest that tomorrow's house could be created from 
a relic of the 1870's it can't. But there is a great 
deal of unsuspected livability in millions of old 
houses that could be brought out by applying the 
techniques of modern planning and design. 

While we are pointing out the disadvantages of 



remodeling, it might be well to look at its major 
advantage. Designing a new house is inevitably 
mixed with a lot of guesswork, and no layman can 
possibly visualize his completed house from the 
lines on blueprints. As a result, seeing the house 
enclosed for the first time is always a surprise. 
Rooms are bigger or smaller than imagined. De- 
tails that had seemed very important don't count 
one way or the other. Almost always something has 
been left out or put in the wrong place. None of 
these things happen in a remodeling job, because 
you start with a complete house. 

The mere process of living in a house, coupled 
with a reasonable amount of critical observation, 
produces an exceedingly intimate knowledge of its 
good and bad points. Planning for remodeling, 
therefore, is begun on a very solid and realistic 
basis, and for this reason, the results can be most 
satisfactory. There is little likelihood of wasting 
space or money. The owner knows which features 
are most objectionable, and he can insist on cor- 
recting them first. Because he knows so well those 
things that work badly, he will recognize proposals 
for improvement and understand their value. And 
remodeling carries a great deal of pleasure with it, 
not only because of the marked improvement in 
the house, but also because it is the one kind of 
building job where the layman can function on a 
par with the architect. 


The difference between building an old-fashioned 
house and tomorrow's house is that the latter is a 
genuinely exciting and truly creative activity. The 
architect, instead of functioning as an arbiter of 
elegance refusing to let you put the bathroom 
where it belongs because it would interfere with his 
symmetrical window arrangement, for instance 

becomes the leading member of a team whose sole 
objective is to get a house that does everything a 
house could possibly do. With a conventional 
house, planning is done within a strait-jacket. 
Wherever one turns there are rules which, while 
meaningless, are all-powerful. Windows have to 
have certain sizes and proportions. Materials are 
dictated by conditions that ceased to be important 
a hundred years ago. The planning is never free 
and the result could have been predicted in ad- 
vance. With the modern house, no holds are 
barred. Do you want a living-room with a wall that 
can be slid out of the way in the summertime? You 
can have it. Would you prefer a screened porch 
without a roof on it? Your architect can make it 
look very handsome. Would you like to use ramps 
instead of stairs? Would you like to put part of the 
house up on stilts so that some of the garden is 
under cover? It has been done. 

The reason that the small group of modern archi- 
tects has persisted in its efforts is because they have 
had so much fun. They have watched their clients, 
skeptical at first, become wildly enthusiastic. They 
have seen in the completed houses how old ways of 
living were scrapped in favor of new and better 
ones. This for the conscientious professional is the 
highest reward he can be given. 

Modern houses have been increasing in number 
because they sell themselves. People like the easier 
maintenance and the greater livability. They like 
the lack of clutter and the feeling of space. They 
like having the garden where they can enjoy it and 
live with it. And they tell their friends about it. 

Getting tomorrow's house is a lot of trouble. We 
haven't pulled any punches in pointing out just how 
much trouble it is. But if you ever go through the 
headaches of building it and come out at the other 
end fairly unscathed, you will agree that it was 
worth every one of the headaches, and more. 




UNTIL NOW we have carefully refrained from men- 
tioning methods, techniques, and materials which 
are not immediately realizable in terms of today. 
Most houses are so far behind their potentialities 
that a mere listing of what has been done in a few 
outstanding cases can make pretty exciting reading 
and these few houses have provided even more 
exciting living. Despite this emphasis on the prac- 
tical, the temptation to indulge in crystal gazing is 
practically irresistible. Before embarking on our 
own particular dreams it might be a good idea to 
put a few nicks in the crystal. 

A great deal of what has been written about the 
home of the future is hogwash. The helicopter, for 
instance, is a strange and wonderful thing, but at 
least it exists. Cars with rear engines also exist. 
Where the house is concerned, any overworked 
imagination seems to have no difficulty in getting 
its nonexistent products into print. The screwier 
the idea, the more publicity it receives. 

Let us consider a few examples. We read that 
with the help of television mother can keep right on 
with the dishes while carrying on a face to face con- 
versation with the Fuller brush man, who never 
gets past the front door. Any manufacturer of tele- 
vision equipment could undoubtedly produce this 
gadget, but for much less money the house can be 
planned with the kitchen window right next to the 
front door. 

Consider, dear reader, the hullaballoo about the 
revolving house, that wondrous contraption which 

will turn on its foundation like a sunflower, keep- 
ing everybody tanned and happy all year long with- 
out even the trouble of pushing a button. This, too, 
could be built, but we have already seen that the 
house that doesn't revolve can be pretty well de- 
signed to take care of the sun in the southern quad- 
rant, which is the only time it is much good 

Then there is the mobile house, that wonderful 
package which can be unhooked from the lot when 
you have a quarrel with your neighbor, put on 
wheels, and trundled to a happier neighborhood. 
Mobile houses can be built, too. In fact, they have 
been. But' what is the worth to you in dollars and 
cents of something you would not use more than 
once in twenty years? 

The list of idiocies brought forth by the pseudo- 
scientific writers is legion. Apparently they believe 
that the American public will swallow anything as 
long as the label of novelty is attached to it. Right 
at the moment there is a good bit of talk about 
window glass being replaced by sheets of clear 
plastic, a little rumor that has driven a number of 
reputable manufacturers practically out of their 
minds. The facts are (1) that glass is a plastic (and 
has been for generations) ; (2) it makes very good 
windows and is relatively inexpensive; (3) there is 
no other known plastic at any price that has the 
unique resistance of glass to abrasion. Bomber 
noses are made out of plastics, to be sure, but they 
cost a small fortune and have to be reconditioned 



every few flights. Plastics are used on planes be- 
cause they are light and easily formed, but no 
house has ever presented air-combat requirements. 
There are enough wonderful things coming along 
to satisfy any of us. If we must indulge in day- 
dreaming and we all like to let's approach to- 
morrow's house on a more reasonable basis. 

A pretty good beginning is with equipment. If 
one takes the trouble to look into the history of ap- 
paratus for the home, one or two facts stick out 
prominently. Most significant is a steady reduction 
in bulk. In your grandfather's house the furnace 
was a sheet metal octopus, a huge belly with fat tin 
tentacles reaching all through the cellar, poking 
their way up through the floors into the walls. To- 
day's warm air furnace is a quarter of its size and 
does twice as good a job. The same is true of the 
stove, and of the refrigerator, half of which used to 
be an ice compartment. This trend can and will 
continue. With radiant heating, for example, radi- 
ators and registers have been reduced to the van- 
ishing point. But radiant heating still uses a lot of 
pipes. When electricity gets to be our most common 
fuel, the pipes may well disappear along with the 
furnace. Before this really revolutionary develop- 
ment takes place, however, heating equipment now 
being designed promises to reduce the furnace to 
the size of a steamer trunk or a suitcase. 

Reduction of bulk is important because it saves 
space and makes maintenance easier. Closets are a 
good example. In our own time we have shifted 
from separate wardrobes and other pieces of mov- 
able storage furniture to compact built-in closets 
and storage walls. In the future storage will un- 
questionably be almost 100 per cent integrated 
with the house. Furniture manufacturers may not 
like this prospect but we suspect housewives will. 

As important as reduction of bulk is flexibility 
of control. To go back to heating for a moment, 
the old hot air furnace pumped a lot of heat into a 
lot of rooms. Some were too hot, others were too 

cold; all were drafty. Equipment already on the 
market has eliminated most of these annoyances 
and we can count on further refinements. If you 
wanted an air-conditioning system for your home 
which would give individual temperature control 
for every room in the house, you could have it, but 
it would cost a lot of money. Our guess is that in 
the not too distant future you will be able to have 
it, and it won't cost a lot of money. 

One of the questions we are asked most fre- 
quently by starry-eyed prospective home builders 
is, "What about those wonderful new materials 
that are being developed? When will we be able to 
get them for our house?" There are two answers to 
this. One is that there are a lot of wonderful old 
materials. Take that middle-western favorite, for 
example, a wood frame wall with an exterior finish 
of brick. It is a phenomenally good wall. The out- 
side keeps its trim appearance indefinitely. The 
inside can be thoroughly insulated. Anybody can 
build it. Does it disillusion you to have the house 
of tomorrow discussed in such terms . Let us say 
that a manufacturer is trying to develop new ex- 
terior facing material. Here is what he has to pro- 
duce : a material that will retain its initial good ap- 
pearance indefinitely; requires no maintenance; 
keeps out the weather; does not shrink or warp 
noticeably; is strong enough to resist mechanical 
injury that is, it can't fall apart if some over- 
enthusiastic youngster bangs it with a baseball bat ; 
and is relatively inexpensive. If it satisfies these con- 
ditions and offers into the bargain the advantages 
of light weight and quick installation, we have a 
new material that will compete effectively with the 
old. Anybody who produces this material has a 
rich and wonderful market waiting for him. Un- 
questionably it will be produced and ultimately ac- 
cepted but no one knows how soon. To do our 
own crystal gazing, let us take a look at the house 
as it is and as it might become. 

The house is the only important consumer prod- 


uct which is still assembled by craftsmen. Practi- 
cally every dwelling in the United States consists of 
sticks of various lengths called studs, floor joists, 
and roof rafters, put together out in the open in all 
kinds of weather by people who use tools going 
straight back to Neolithic times. This is going to 
change and drastically. It is going to change be- 
cause the home market is too big for industry to 
pass up. Once production engineers start figuring 
out ways to give more product for less money, 
things are going to happen. You don't have to be 
a minor prophet to guess what these things are. 
Even the least technical-minded among us has a 
fairly clear idea of how the process works. 

The manufacturer's dream is an operation that is 
automatic from beginning to end. The raw metal 
comes in at one end and the finished product comes 
out at the other. In the middle are a lot of machines 
which cut, press, squeeze, stretch, turn, or punch. 
The machines are very big and very expensive. 
They can be afforded only if what they turn out is 
produced in quantity and without flaws. To be 
sure, there are all kinds of manufacturers. Some 
make wrist watches with movements the size of a 
dime, and others make locomotives. It seems rea- 
sonable to assume that industries making large as- 
semblies give us the best clue as to what will hap- 
pen to the house, which must be a series of large 
assemblies. Three such are the automotive, avia- 
tion, and ship-building industries, and all offer in- 
teresting examples. When a car manufacturer 
wants to make a roof, he doesn't put up a lot of 
rafters, cover them with sheeting, and lay a lot of 
shingles on top. He has a series of big presses 
which squeeze out each roof in one operation. He 
can eliminate the rafters because he is playing on 
one of the most significant characteristics of sheet 
metals. Sheet metals left flat are weak. Curved, 
crimped, or corrugated, they are tremendously 

strong. You can prove this to your own satisfaction 
with a cardboard shirt stiffener. Stood on edge, this 
piece of heavy paper can't even hold itself up. 
Twist it into a tube and it could probably support 
a set of the Encyclopaedia Brittanica plus a couple 
of telephone books. A car fender is far more com- 
plicated than a cardboard tube, and it is much 
stronger, because the simple curve has been formed 
into a compound curve. Houses built of sticks and 
stones are the carpenter's and mason's delight, but 
once they start coming out of factories it will be a 
different story. 

We can count on the following: (1) More and 
more houses in the years to come are going to be 
factory-produced; (2) they will be built of sheet 
materials, used not only for finish inside and out 
but for their structural qualities as well; (3) be- 
cause sheet materials function most effectively in 
curved rather than flat forms, the house of the 
future may look very strange. Do you like the idea 
of a corrugated kitchen or a circular bedroom or 
rooms without square corners anywhere in them? 
Most of us would have to get rid of a lot of pre- 
conceived notions before we accepted anything but 
our favorite rectangular shapes, but it might not be 
so hard. The pride of many a Colonial mansion is 
an elliptical stair hall. During the late years of the 
French Renaissance there were circular boudoirs 
and anterooms. The Eskimo, too, would probably 
consider it strange if he had suddenly to go and 
live in a house that was all square corners. Nobody 
kicked when cars went from square corners to 
curves. Tastes can be very deep-rooted, but tastes 
can change. 

The machine-produced house we label "prefab- 
ricated" has caused a considerable amount of argu- 
ment. People like to believe that their homes are 
individual, even if the facts of life show that they 
very rarely are. Mrs. A and Mrs. Z have already 



gone on record against prefabrication because they 
fear that the monotony would be intolerable and a 
mass-produced house would lack the charms of 
home. What gives a home its charm is not neces- 
sarily special tailoring, but the process of living in 
it. We have all seen apartments and third-hand 
houses which are full of charm and individuality 
the result of what their occupants did to them. In 
other words, almost any personality can be im- 
printed on any dwelling. There is also this point: 
mass production, oddly enough, makes for less 
monotony rather than more. When nails were made 
by the local blacksmith, each nail was slightly dif- 
ferent from all the others but there were few 
types. Today there are hundreds more kinds of 
nails, although their production is highly stand- 
ardized. If this is true of so completely simple an 
item, it must certainly hold for the house. 

Prefabrication today is anything but an estab- 
lished industry. Yet already there are types and 
methods which promise a tremendous variety of 
finished products. Some houses are being built in 
panels, others are constructed in chunks, like trail- 
ers. Materials include wood, plywood, asbestos, 
reinforced concrete, insulating board, and sheet 
steel. New ideas on design and construction appear 
almost daily. The facts strongly suggest that what- 
ever industrial production does to the house, it will 
not destroy the variety everyone demands. 

Within our own lifetime we have watched servants 
disappear and mechanical aids come in. We have 
seen women go first into offices and then into fac- 
tories. We have gradually watched a general shift- 
ing of the center of gravity from the home to the 
community. These are broad social and economic 
trends which will continue. Houses are going to re- 
flect them. Anything that pays out in the way of 
labor-saving design has a good chance of accept- 
ance. Survivals, no matter how much we are at- 

tached to them, will go by the boards. Take the 
case of carpets. A good carpet costs more than a 
good floor. Even in a home of modest means, car- 
pets and rugs may represent an investment of a 
good many hundred dollars over a period of 
twenty or thirty years. Why do we have carpets? 
We started having carpets because our feudal an- 
cestors found life on cold stone floors intolerable 
without some insulating material laid over them. 
This is no problem any more. We also have rugs 
because a room without them sounds queer. In 
other words, it is our practice to put acoustical 
material on the floor in the home rather than on the 
ceiling as in offices. This could be changed. To 
date, there is no single material which combines 
the advantages of a rug that is, its softness, sound- 
deadening and decorative qualities with the ad- 
vantages of a structural floor. Such a material, 
however, is not too far off. It has to be resilient, 
easily cleaned, warm in appearance, and not more 
expensive than the carpets it will replace. Are you 
appalled by the idea of a house without rugs? The 
chances are about five to one that your grandchil- 
dren will be appalled to learn that you ever had 
such unsanitary contraptions in your house. 


One of the interesting by-products of World War 
II is the tremendous number and variety of frac- 
tional horsepower motors that have been turned 
out in a great hurry. The B-29, for example, uses 
well over a hundred of these little gadgets. The 
house of the future may not use a hundred, but it 
will probably use quite a few. Walls that open to 
the out-of-doors, such as the huge sliding windows 
seen in many modern living-rooms, might as well 
be motorized as not. The same goes for partitions, 
whether between children's bedrooms, the living- 
room and dining-room, or dining-room and kit- 
chen. A push of the button and the wall isn't there 
any more. Portions of roofs could be operated in 


the same manner. Awnings or outside blinds could 
be operated by motor, using photo-electric cells 
activated by the sun so that you would not even 
have to push a button. All of these amenities are 
technically feasible now. 

If you counted the number of motors in your 
house right now, you would probably be very im- 
pressed. There are the fans, the refrigerator, wash- 
ing machine, ironer, sewing machine, oil burner, 
maybe the garage doors, and probably five or six 
others. Horsepower has already invaded the home. 
All we are suggesting is that the front may pres- 
ently be widened. 


World War II produced more than fractional 
horsepower motors. It developed the paper- 
laminated plastics, which are as strong, weight for 
weight, as aluminum. It produced wood that 
doesn't swell or shrink. It created plywoods which 
have extraordinary strength and water-proof qual- 
ities. It took aluminum out of the class of an al- 
most rare metal and made it, with magnesium, one 
of the most common. It expanded stainless steel 
production to the point where at least one manu- 
facturer has been talking about using stainless steel 
for roofing. This, incidentally, would be an exceed- 
ingly good idea because the reflecting qualities of 
stainless steel would do a lot toward keeping the 
house comfortable in the summertime. Its mirror- 
like surface would reflect solar radiation in much 
the same manner as aluminum foil insulation, but 
it would have the additional advantage of consid- 
erable strength. 

One company developed cases for shells, using 
a sandwich of plywood and metal. Precut at the 
factory, these cases could be shipped flat, assem- 
bled by merely folding the pieces into boxes. The 
metal covering served as a hinge, a principle that 
might well be taken over for closets, cupboards, 
and other storage units. Another type of plywood 
has a strong paper surface, which can be furnished 

in any color or pattern. Glass has moved out of the 
kitchen to serve for piping, insulation, and fabrics, 
and it is being combined with rayon and plastics to 
create new materials. Water pipes of flexible plas- 
tics may be standard in homes tomorrow, and 
lights without wired connections have already been 
demonstrated. There is a process by which soft 
woods are made as hard as ebony and maple. Old 
and new materials are emerging in a bewildering 
variety of forms and combinations. 

Lest our enthusiasm for these novel materials 
run away with us, let's try to remember this : to the 
householder it doesn't make a great deal of differ- 
ence whether his water comes out of pipes of 
plastic or of brass. He will never know the differ- 
ence if his walls are insulated with glass or with 
some older type of material. These developments, 
while technically interesting, only mean something 
when they have a direct relationship to better 


Using industrial techniques in other fields as a 
basis, we think tomorrow's house will be built in 
pieces in factories and assembled at the site. It may 
be full of all sorts of queer curves, strange slanting 
walls, and odd materials that absorb sound but 
can be cleaned off with a hose. Its windows will not 
be single sheets of glass but insulated sandwiches 
with two or even three panes in a single frame, 
whose surfaces may be treated, as photographic 
lenses are now treated, so that reflections are en- 
tirely eliminated. This could be very pleasant. 
Imagine being able to look out of the living-room 
window at night without seeing reflections of 
lamps and furniture. Under such conditions a view 
might really become something to be enjoyed. 

Tomorrow's house will be highly mechanized. 
Its present supply of fractional horsepower motors 
will be multiplied by two or three, and all sorts of 
things will happen at the push of a button instead 
of the heave of a back. Electricity may become the 



prime fuel as well as source of power. Bathrooms 
will probably be prefabricated and may have their 
own instantaneous electric hot water heaters. In- 
dividual room air-conditioning is certainly in the 
picture, but instead of bulky ducts to the separate 
rooms there may be small pipes through which the 
air will pass at a high velocity. 

Many things will completely disappear from 
view in the house that is now shaping up. Bureaus 
and chests will give way to built-in cupboards. 
Radios will move from pretentious oversized cab- 
inets into the walls. A good deal of furniture for 
sitting will tend to become an integral part of the 
walls. This creates the prospect of a series of flex- 
ible, uncluttered interiors where there is room to 
swing a cat and where there may be less need to 
swing a mop. Possibly you like cluttered interiors. 
This is all right, too, because our little crystal ball 
tells us that there will be no law in 194X compelling 
you to give up your Duncan Phyfe highboy and 
chintz curtains. 

Most of us react to change in a pretty standard 
way. When the tractor replaced the horse, roman- 
tics pined because they liked the picture of a team 
of horses on the brow of a hill at sunset, a stalwart 
farmer urging on his tired steeds. But every time a 
farmer got money enough for a down payment on 
a tractor he bought one. Maybe farmers don't have 
fun any more. In the absence of proof we are in- 
clined to doubt it. 

A home in the days of our childhood was loaded 
to the brim with all kinds of strange and wonderful 
junk. There were whatnots full of sea shells, attics 
loaded with musty trunks, glass chimes on the 
front porch, stuffed animals on the mantelpiece, 
and all the rest of it. Maybe the youngsters are 
going to miss a lot of fun in tomorrow's house. 
But maybe that is what was said about yesterday's 
house, too. Deep inside Africa and Australia there 
are tribes that have never even seen a house, and, 
if the anthropologists are to be believed, even these 

people have had some good times in their quiet 
way. It is unlikely that tomorrow's house is going 
to be so devoid of enrichment and interest that the 
youngest generation will be in the same spot as its 
contemporaries in darkest Africa. It is unlikely, 
too, that as long as people are people their houses 
will fail to give them whatever it is they demand. 
For our part we can see a pretty good time in 
this newfangled piece of industrial shelter which is 
already beginning to appear. If it is quieter, easier 
to take care of, better to live in than its predecessor, 
it is doing just about everything a family can de- 
mand of a house. 


The reason we indulged in the pleasant game of 
projecting trends was to prove that the potential- 
ities of tomorrow's house are very much with us 
today. There are materials yet to be made, and 
machines to be made simpler and less expensive, 
and production techniques to produce more space 
for less money. There will undoubtedly be revolu- 
tionary developments in lighting, heating, and the 
other services of the home. Tomorrow's house in 
this sense will never come all in one neat cellophane 
package. It will grow, item by item, year by year. 
With what we now know about planning and ma- 
terials, and what architects have learned from the 
industrial and commercial fields, the house that 
can be built right now is a pretty wonderful thing. 
Every age has produced the amenities it wanted 
the most. This was as true in the days of Queen 
Victoria as it will be fifty years from now. Today 
is no exception. 

The real fun of building tomorrow's house today 
comes from the time lag. Almost all of our dwell- 
ings, even the new ones, are ten to fifty years be- 
hind what they could be. If you want individuality, 
and that means if you really want it and just don't 
give lip service to the idea, this is the way to get it, 
and the time to start planning is right now. 



Clark & Frey, 869 North Palm Canyon Drive, 
Palm Springs: 199 

Hervey Parke Clark, 210 Post Street, San Fran- 
cisco: 188, 189,204,215 

Frederick L. R. Confer, R. F. D. #1, Box 41 5A, 
Martinez: 176, 203 

Mario Corbett, 210 Post Street, San Francisco: 27, 

Robert Trask Cox, 1570 Poppy Peak Drive, Pasa- 
dena: 205 

Gardner A. Dailey, 210 Post Street, San Fran- 
cisco: 20, 158,212,222 

J. R. Davidson, 1417 Comstock Avenue, Los 
Angeles: 161 

John Ekin Dinwiddie, Architect; Albert Henry 
Hill, Associate, 233 Sansome Street, San Fran- 
cisco: 14,38, 138 

Joseph Esherick, Jr., Ross: 121 

Willard Hall Francis, 1539 Bentley Avenue, West 
Los Angeles : 57 

John Funk, 21 Columbus Avenue, San Francisco: 

Michael Goodman, 2422 Cedar Street, Berkeley: 

Harwell Hamilton Harris, 2311 Fellowship Park- 
way, Los Angeles: 58, 59, 61, 80, 101, 115, 120, 
126, 131, 155, 165, 166, 175, 210 

Philip Joseph, San Francisco: 38, 138 

George Kosmak, Ruth Gerth & Associates, 1226 
Sutter Street, San Francisco: 110, 114, 134, 137, 
226, 227 

Paul Laszlo, 362 North Rodeo Drive, Beverly 
Hills: 31, 32, 35, 73, 157, 174 

Francis E. Lloyd, 210 Post Street, San Francisco: 
13, 149, 153 

Clarence W. W. Mayhew, 330 Hampton Road, 
Piedmont: 71, 164 

Richard J. Neutra, 2300 Silverlake Boulevard, Los 
Angeles: 62, 103, 140, 169, 170, 197 

Emrich Nicholson & Douglas Maier, Los Angeles: 

W. L. Pereira, 519 North Crescent Drive, Beverly 
Hills: 216 

Raphael S. Soriano, 6731 Leland Way, Los An- 
geles: 102 

Lloyd Wright, 858 North Doheny Drive, Los An- 
geles: 19, 206 

William Wilson Wurster, Wurster & Bernardi, 402 
Jackson Street, San Francisco: 68, 69, 159, 160, 
162, 163, 220, 221 


Burnham Hoyt, 400 Colorado National Bank 
Building, Denver: 127 


Richard M. Bennett, School of Fine Arts, Yale 

University, New Haven: 21, 190 
Thome Sherwood, Mayapple Road, Stamford: 30, 

218, 219 


Victorine and Samuel Homsey, Hockessin: 152 


George Howe, Supervising Architect, Public Build- 
ings Administration, Federal Works Agency, 
Washington: 39, 40, 193, 194 



Robert Law Weed, 444 N. E. 102nd St., Miami: 41 


James Auer, 1505 28th Street, Rock Island: 64 

William F. Deknatel, 840 North Michigan Avenue, 
Chicago: 33, 34, 51 

Robert Sydney Dickens, 840 North Michigan 
Avenue, Chicago: 183 

Dubin & Dubin, 127 North Dearborn Street, 
Chicago: 42 

James F. Eppenstein, 35 East Wacker Drive, Chi- 
cago: 49, 74 

Bertrand Goldberg, Chicago: 133 

G. McStay Jackson, Inc., 840 North Michigan 
Avenue, Chicago: 122, 132, 143, 148 

George Fred Keck, 152 East Ontario Street, Chi- 
cago: 70, 88, 92, 128, 184, 185, 191 

Samuel A. Marx, Architect; N. L. Flint and C. W. 
Schonne, Associates, 333 North Michigan Ave- 
nue, Chicago: 22 

Arthur Purdy, Chicago: 183 

Paul Schweikher, Roselle, Illinois, and Theodore 
Lamb, deceased: 3, 17, 52, 117 


Walter F. Bogner, Hunt Hall, Harvard University, 
Cambridge: 29, 53 

Marcel Breuer, 1430 Massachusetts Ave., Cam- 
bridge: 36, 37, 106, 107, 200 

Samuel Glaser, Architect; L. L. Rado, Associate, 
162 Newbury Street, Boston: 66 

Walter Gropius, 1430 Massachusetts Avenue, 
Cambridge: 36, 37, 106, 107, 198, 200 

Carl Koch, Snake Hill, Belmont: 1, 15, 26, 28, 48, 
79, 142, 179, 180, 232 

G. Holmes Perkins, Department of Regional Plan- 
ning, Graduate School of Design, Harvard Uni- 
versity, Cambridge: 2 

Hugh A. Stubbins, Jr., 83 Snake Hill Road, Bel- 
mont: 63 

Royal Barry Wills: 3 Joy Street, Boston: 63 


Alden B. Dow, Inc., Midland: 5, 25 


Huson Jackson, 9737 Litzsinger Road, St. Louis: 

Isadore Shank, 4 Graybridge Lane, Ladue, St. 

Louis County: 64 


Allmon Fordyce, Glen Gardner: 4, 83, 84, 85, 8 

Kenneth Kassler, 221 Elm Road, Princeton: 7, 46, 

Vincent Kling, East Orange: 23, 24, 213 


John Breck, New York: 54, 55, 116 

Alan Burnham, New York: 8, 9 

John Callender, 396 Bleecker Street, New York: 


Alice Morgan Carson, New York: 135, 136 
Robert L. Davison, 299 Madison Avenue, New 

York: 76, 77 

Donald Deskey, 630 Fifth Avenue, New York : 195 
Malcolm Graeme Duncan, 299 Madison Avenue, 

New York: 181, 182 
Guyon C. Earle, 6 Burns Street, Forest Hills, L. I. : 


Livingstone Elder, New York: 60, 217 
Philip L. Goodwin, 32 East 57th Street, New York: 


Robert A. Green, Tappan Landing, Tarrytown: 11 
Julius Gregory, 74 Macdougal Street, New York: 

Paul Grotz, 7 St. Luke's Place, New York: 167, 

168, 228, 229 
William Hamby, New York: 4, 6, 16, 43, 50, 65, 

78, 104, 105, 109, 230 
Michael M. Hare, 110 East 42nd Street, New 

York: 60, 217 

Albert Lee Hawes, New York: 8, 9 
Holden, McLaughlin & Associates, 570 Lexington 

Avenue, New York : 96, 97 
Caleb Hornbostel, 80 West 40th Street, New York: 

21, 190 
S. Clements Horsley, 205 East 42nd Street, New 

York: 171, 173 
Clement Kurd, New York: 60, 217 

A. Musgrave Hyde, New York: 130 
Philip Johnson, New York: 171, 173 
Morris Ketchum, Jr., 5 East 57th Street, New 

York: 113 
William Lescaze, 21 1 East 48th Street, New York: 

123, 145 

John Manzer, 220 East 41st Street, New York: 60, 

Moore & Hutchins, 11 East 44th Street, New 

York: 56, 67 
George Nelson, 4 East 95th Street, New York: 4, 

6, 16, 43, 50, 78, 104, 105, 150, 151 
Pomerance & Breines, 18 East 48th Street, New 

York: 47, 202 
Antonin Raymond, 101 Park Avenue, New York: 

10, 141 
Jedd Stow Reisner, 26 East 55th Street, New 

York: 113 

George Sakier, 9 East 57th Street, New York: 98 
Morris B. Sanders, 219 East 49th Street, New 

York: 18 

Walter Sanders, New York: 54, 55, 116 
Willard B. Smith, 1929 E. Genesee Street, Syra- 
cuse: 99, 146 
Theodore Smith-Miller, 235 East 72nd Street, New 

York: 54, 55, 116 
Eldredge Snyder, New York: 207 
Edward D. Stone, New York: 48, 89, 108, 112, 

124, 129, 177, 178, 179, 180, 187, 195, 196, 
223, 224 

van der Gracht & Kilham, 101 Park Avenue, New 

York: 135, 136 
Paul Lester Wiener (formerly Contempora, Inc.), 

33 West 42nd Street, New York: 118 

Virginia Williams, New York: 145 

Henry Wright, 48-13 39th Avenue, Long Island 

City: 21, 72, 150, 151, 167, 168, 190, 192, 228, 

229, 231 


Allen J. Maxwell, Borden Building, Goldsboro: 

223, 224 
John J. Rowland, 330 North Queen Street, 

Kinston: 223, 224 


H. Creston Doner, Director of Department of 
Design, Libbey-Owens-Ford Glass Company, 
Toledo: 93, 94 

Ernst Payer of Rideout & Payer, Chagrin Falls: 
226, 227 


Robert M. Brown, Philadelphia: 119 

George Daub, 2123 Delancey Place, Philadelphia: 

Kenneth Day, Miquon: 12, 100, 154 


Alden B. Dow, Inc., Houston: 5, 25 


Paul Thiry, 468 Stuart Building, Seattle: 81, 82, 
144, 156 


Frank Lloyd Wright, Taliesin, Spring Green: 44, 
45, 75, 186, 208, 209 



William H. Allen, 99, 146 

Elmer L. Astleford, 5, 25 

Esther Born, 204 

Chicago Architectural Photographing Company, 

122, 132, 143, 148 
Robert M. Damora, 4, 6, 7, 11, 12, 16, 23, 24, 46, 

76, 77, 78, 98, 100, 104, 105, 109, 152, 154, 213, 

214, 217 
Fred R. Dapprich, 32, 58, 59, 80, 101, 120, 126, 

131, 155, 165, 166, 175, 205, 210 
Paul Davis, George H. Davis Studio, 26, 36, 37 
P. A. Dearborn, 181, 182 
Richard T. Dooner, 125 
Philip Fein, 13, 27, 149, 153, 225 
Richard Garrison, 8, 9, 18, 65, 81, 82, 110, 134, 

137, 156, 226, 227, 230 
John Gass, 195 

Samuel H. Gottscho, 21, 41, 56, 135, 136, 196 
Gottscho-Schleisner, 67, 96, 97 
Arthur C. Haskell, 63 
Hedrich-Blessing Studio, 3, 17, 22, 33, 34, 49, 51, 

52, 70, 74, 75, 88, 92, 117, 127, 128, 133, 183, 

184, 185, 191, 208, 209, 216 
Steven Reiser, 42 

C. V. D. Hubbard, 10, 141 

Robert Humphreys, 201 

LIFE photo, Herbert Gehr, 113, 150, 151 

LIFE photo, William C. Shrout, 1 14 

F. S. Lincoln, 95, 118, 119, 207 

Luckhaus Studio, 103, 197 

Rodney McCay Morgan, 130 

P. A. Nyholm, 145 

Maynard L. Parker, 111 

Ben Schnall, 39, 40, 43, 54, 55, 72, 116, 192, 193, 

194, 231 
Juluis Shulman, 35, 62, 73, 102, 140, 157, 161, 169, 

170, 174 

Richard Averill Smith, 83, 84, 85, 86, 87 
Ezra Stoller, 1, 2, 15, 28, 29, 47, 48, 53, 79, 89, 

106, 107, 108, 112, 124, 129, 142, 171, 173, 177, 

178, 187, 198, 200, 202, 232 
Roger Sturtevant, 14, 20, 38, 61, 68, 69, 71, 115, 

121, 138, 158, 159, 164, 172, 212, 220, 221, 222 
Mary Thiry, 144 
Bennett S. Tucker, 64 
George H. Van Anda, 30, 218, 219 
W. P. Woodcock, 199